Ford Performance NASCAR Notes and Quotes
AAA Texas 500 – Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, November 5, 2017
FORD FINISHING RESULTS:
1st Kevin Harvick
5th Brad Keselowski
6th Ryan Blaney
7th Joey Logano
9th Kurt Busch
12th Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
15th Aric Almirola
17th Danica Patrick
25th Matt DiBenedetto
26th Landon Cassill
28th Trevor Bayne
30th David Ragan
36th Clint Bowyer
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion – VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW — “This feels so good. We have been qualifying well here and racing well ever since I have been at Stewart-Haas Racing and just never got it to work out to go to victory lane. Today we had to earn it. To be able to pass the 78 car for the win is something that is huge for our confidence and team knowing we need to go to another 1.5 mile at Homestead to race for the championship. I am really proud of everyone on our Mobil 1 FOrd. This thing was a hot rod today.
YOU SPENT A LOT OF LAPS CHASING DOWN THE 78. WHEN DID YOU KNOW THE TIME WAS RIGHT TO MAKE THE PASS? “I saw the 42 at the beginning of the race really driving into one really deep. For me, I knew I needed to do something different in order to get past Martin. I tried to just start driving it in there and we kept going faster and faster. I picked up like two-tenths. I kept driving it in there and one lap I got close enough to get the air off the back of his car. I actually got to the outside and was able to pass him on the outside. That is a credit to the race track for getting it rubbered up and all the things they have done to prep it.”
RYAN BLANEY, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – HOW AGGRESSIVE DO YOU NEED TO BE NEXT WEEK AT PHOENIX? “Obviously, we need to be really aggressive. We need to go try and win the race. That’s really the only thing we can do, so I’m proud of the effort by the team today. We didn’t start off very good and we got really good towards the middle and had one run where I was super-loose towards the end. I gave up like five spots. I got real loose and that was unfortunate, but we got our car a little bit better at the end. We kind of restarted eighth and ran sixth. Thanks to the effort by the Wood Brothers group and hopefully we’ll have a good Phoenix.” YOU GOT SOME STAGE POINTS TODAY. “I was happy with not being great the first stage and running eighth there and then getting better and finishing third in the second one. We had our car better and that effort was pretty good.” ONE SPOT AVAILABLE AT PHOENIX. “You pretty much have to go and win the race. That’s all we can do. It’s gonna be hard to point your way in because everyone is running pretty good. We’ll just try to win Phoenix and do the best we can.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Wurth Ford Fusion – “We had a pretty good car. Something happened on lap one and basically we started the race last and a lap-and-a-half down. That cost us a bunch of stage points, but we rallied with a solid effort to get back to fifth. I’m happy for that.” YOU ARE PLUS-18 GOING INTO PHOENIX. HOW CONFIDENT DO YOU FEEL? “I need more than that. I’d feel confident if we were locked in. These races you don’t know what’s gonna happen.” HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE YOUR DAY? “Long. It was a long day for everybody on the Wurth Ford Fusion team. This is the best we ran on a mile-and-a-half in some time, so I’m happy about that. I’m disappointed with the way the race started. It probably cost us 10 or more points, but I’m happy with the rebound.” WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF I TOLD YOU THAT A FIFTH-PLACE FINISH WAS COMING AFTER THAT START? “We’ll take it. I still want more. I hate to give up those stage points. Nineteen points isn’t terrible for a cushion. We’ll need to go and have a solid race at Phoenix next week and hope none of the other guys win. It’s doable, but it’s gonna be a nailbiter next week for sure.” HOW ABOUT THE WAY THE TEAM RALLIED. “It was a nice response for sure. That’s what you hope for. We’ve had really great efforts the last two weeks. We probably arguably deserve a little better result, but I’m still proud of the effort with strong, solid days with top fives. You take these Playoff races and get two top fives in the last round that’s pretty strong, I’d like to have a win, but we were in position to win last week and a top five this week. We just need to do the same or be a little more next week.” WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO NEXT WEEK TO ADVANCE? “We need to score some stage points. We really lost out on that today and probably have another top five effort. That’s kind of what we’re hoping for.”
KURT BUSCH, No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion – “We had to rebound from when the lugnut got stuck behind the wheel — the right-front wheel to the brake rotor and all that. Man, We just still want more. We’re so close to being what we want, but we just still aren’t in that top five group right now. We’ve just got to find a little more. I’m real happy with our effort. We finished in the top-10 after a pit road mishap, so it’s a good day.”
WINNER’S PRESS CONFERENCE
RODNEY CHILDERS AND TONY STEWART
RODNEY CHILDERS: First, I was wondering if I look goofy (laughter). I told Claire I see the pictures from Victory Lane and Chad always looked goofy with his hat on. I was wondering if I did, too.
Overall, it’s just a great weekend. In all honesty, we’ve had good speed lately. We probably could have won a few races here lately. Just didn’t do our jobs, whether we made a mistake on pit road, different things. But we had a good car at Chicago, we had a good car at Dover, a good car at Kansas.
It’s all about putting it all together on the right day. Some days that’s hard to do. But we’ve got a great group that has worked really hard back at the shop building a great racecar. Doug and all his guys at the engine shop have worked day and night trying to get their side of it better. Everybody at Ford has done anything we’ve asked them to do. Keep pushing to try to make each other better. It’s been a team effort.
Just happy to get one in Victory Lane. I feel like we should have won more races this year. It’s disappointing. I don’t like to lose. It’s been a hard year. So to finally get one back into Victory Lane, to feel like we have something we can race with the last four or five weeks has been impressive to me.
Just really looking forward to racing at Phoenix next week. I should say I’m looking forward to racing at Homestead, but I want to win Phoenix first, then we’ll worry about Homestead next.
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by team owner Tony Stewart. Smoke, as Rodney mentioned, this has not been an easy season for this race team. What has gotten this race team to this point where you are contending for a championship in Miami?
TONY STEWART: First of all, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get to see Eddie ride in here with a bunch of neon hats and jackets and all that crap that he had going on. I’ve been racing dirt stuff in Charlotte.
To be honest, it’s Rodney, his leadership, these guys on this 4 team. Kevin, of course. They’re such a strong group together. There’s different things that we battled through this season. Obviously we had a big switch in manufacturer over the winter to Ford. But even on top of that, like Rodney said, when we’ve struggled this year, it wasn’t because of that. We had a lot to overcome with that change, but at the same time everybody in the field had an aero change, aero package‑wise, too.
I don’t know that even if we didn’t have the manufacture change, we still wouldn’t have maybe struggled a little bit to try to find the equation.
But I think most of all what’s encouraging is this team, these guys, they never give in, they never get the morale down. If they have a bad week, seems like these guys in particular dig in deeper and get their feet in the ground.
I think what I saw tonight is something that I’m really encouraged about. It wasn’t just the fact of winning this race, but it’s just how it was won, how Kevin drove those last 20, 25 laps. I know Kevin, and I can tell watching his driving style, there’s something that field and those other three guys that are going to make it to Homestead here in a couple weeks, they’ve got something to be worried about. I’ve seen this man when he gets locked in like this, and he’s strong right now.
Q. Rodney, like what Tony was talking about, the guy who tweeted that thing last year, the bull running around, is that the kind of attitude and focus you’ve seen from him?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I think it is. I don’t know if I would call it the bull. He’s just laser focused, does his job. But it’s really about giving him stuff to work with. His tool is the racecar. If we don’t give him good tools to work with, he’s not going to do a good job.
I think making our racecars better, making the horsepower better, getting our setups better, all the things we worked really hard on the last two months, has just gave him something he can work with. That’s really what’s important.
All these guys are so good at what they do, if you can ever get him what he wants to feel, I think I got something there. I knew when we unloaded at Dover, he said it felt more like 2014, 2015. As soon as he said those words, I knew we had something that we were going to start being able to work with.
Q. If you were on the radio with Kevin during that last stint, what was going on?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I don’t talk to him when he’s like that. Honestly, nobody needs to. The more stuff you have going on in your head, the more brain cells and memory is getting used up.
He gets locked on like that, and it’s up to him. I have to be honest. We were behind the 22 there, fighting to try to get by him. I was like, Man, if we can ever get by him, we might have a shot at the 11. We got by the 22. My engineer said, No, we’re going to catch them both.
I don’t know if we can catch the 78.
No, we’re going to catch him.
I was like, All right.
He was right. But just Kevin, he changed some things around there at the end and figured some stuff out. That’s the type of person he is. That’s the type of driver he is. He never gives up. He moves around and fights for everything he can get. He’s the one that made the difference today.
Q. Tony, on Friday you lost the title here for the fastest lap. Does this make up for Kurt beating you out for the record?
RODNEY CHILDERS: He’s fourth now, just so y’all know (smiling).
TONY STEWART: But I did it first, when it wasn’t grippy and new (laughter).
I joked around with the track, I was with Donnie, who drives my World Outlaw team. I said, Yeah, there’s a driver and crew chief going to get fired Monday morning. Then I realized I couldn’t fire the other guys that broke the record, too. I got to let them off the hook.
If anybody had to break it, I’m glad it’s in our organization, Kurt. They did an awesome job. Kurt knows how to lay a lap down like that. It’s cool to see him be able to pull something like that off. It’s sad, because I hate to lose that record. If you’re going to lose it, you want to lose it to somebody in‑house. Those are two guys that I don’t mind losing it to.
It’s kind of like the battles I’ve had with A.J. Foyt. He’s like, I won four Indy 500s. I said, I won three Cup championships.
He goes, Well, check the record books, he always wins.
When I saw Kurt today, he said, Sorry about that.
I said, Don’t worry about it, I did it first before you ever did.
We’re all good (smiling).
Q. Mr. Childers, a technical question. Starting under this hot weather condition, how important is the aero package? Is it necessary to make any changes to the aero package on the hot weather conditions?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I mean, the biggest thing is just making sure you’re going to be okay as far as your tape on the nose going into the race. We ended up being a little too conservative on that, was able to make our car better by that.
I have to be honest. I sent him a message this morning. I told him, I have no idea what that racetrack is going to do. It’s either going to be loose or tight.
TONY STEWART: Way to step out there on the edge, Bud.
RODNEY CHILDERS: We’re going to leave it alone and figure it out.
He said, Awesome.
We figured it out, though.
You know, you don’t know. If it was a wore‑out racetrack, normally when it’s a lot warmer the next day, race day, the car would be freer. You would tighten the car up before the race. The repaves have always been a little different. You don’t know exactly where it’s going to be. A lot of them end up being loose to start, then get way tight.
We fought being too tight the whole weekend. But I have to commend the racetrack and everybody at NASCAR for dragging tires as long as they did. The track was in so much better shape on Friday than what it was when we got here in the spring. They really did a good job of trying to get it in a really good condition before we got here.
Q. The switch to Ford, a lot of people would say that was a big risk. It was a big challenge. Does this feel like validation that now you have a car in the championship round the first year with them?
TONY STEWART: Even we said it was a big risk. At the same time when we were looking and assessing whether it was the right thing to do, we said there’s huge opportunities to be big rewards with it as well.
I don’t know if it’s validation yet. We still got a job to do these next two weeks to validate it. I think something that’s been really encouraging from day one is how much we kind of fit their program right off the bat. We had a great relationship with Chevy for all those years. We still feel like personnel‑wise there’s a lot of people that still feel like family there.
To start working with a group of people that we didn’t know very well, didn’t know at all, how quickly and easily the Ford people made us feel like we were part of their family right off the bat. I think it made that transition even easier for us.
Not necessarily so much that it’s validation, just that when you feel like you’re working with people that you’re a family with, you want to make sure you get them results, too. I think it’s more validation on their side than ours. No matter what body you put on this car, this team can overcome and get results out of it. I’m really excited about the program we’re on, working with the people we’re working with at Ford. Looking forward to seeing what we can do in two weeks and hopefully getting them another championship.
Q. Rodney, and you Kevin feed off challenges. Is this a challenge you feel like you met?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I know the first time he called me and told me he was ready for the challenge, for sure. I’m not sure I was.
Now that we’ve been through this Chase, these last five races, you always assess yourself. We did a lot of complaining to ourselves, sitting in meetings, saying, Well, they got more downforce, they got more power, those type of things.
I look back on that, and that was my fault. I was never that way in 2014. I was never that way in 2015. Really it come down to a couple months ago. Why are we complaining? We’re not going to fix their part. We’re not going to take downforce away from them. We’re not going to take horsepower away from them. All right, we’ve got to change what we’re doing. We’ve got to decide if we want to win races and race for a championship.
We started building way better racecars. We started having way better setups. We went for three and a half years without changing any shocks. We ran the same four shocks for three and a half years. All of a sudden we put these our four on, the thing is on fire. That’s the kind of things you have to work on. There’s people out there, like Chad Knaus, that never settle. That’s the reason they win championships.
I feel like over the last two months we have done a good job of not settling, making our cars better, going racing. The hell with everybody else. We need to worry about ourselves. If we give him the right tools on the racetrack, he’s going to win races with it.
I’m just proud of having that backing whether it’s Smoke or Zippy or everybody at the shop. Everybody has worked their butts off the last two months to try to make things better, and they have. Just fortunate to be in a place and a position where the crew chiefs can make a difference and lead the way a little bit. To be honest, I didn’t do a good job leading the way. The last two months, I’ve tried to do a better job.
Just fortunate to be in a place I can do that.
Q. (No microphone.)
RODNEY CHILDERS: I would never point at anybody because I thought we were behind everybody. But it wasn’t Ford’s fault. That’s why I don’t like to sit up here and say it’s Ford this, Ford that. It’s not Ford’s problem. It’s our problem as a race team. That’s what has made the difference.
The guys at the engine shop, the guys at the car shop, built better racecars, they built better engines, we got a better setup in the car. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about pointing fingers and blaming people or whatever. It’s about building the best stuff you can build, going and racing it.
Q. Rodney, now that you have clinched, Kevin and Kyle and Martin are definitely three of the four, is there kind of about what you would have figured? Is this how you sized up the competition? Do you not even look at that whatsoever?
RODNEY CHILDERS: It’s exactly what I thought it would be (smiling). But, you know, just like in 2015, I felt like we raced the best there was for the championship. Kyle won the race, and we finished second. It was close. They barely beat us. We won one championship, finished second in another. We didn’t do a good enough job. We learned a lot from that race. We learned a lot again last year.
You know, what I feel like it’s a good racetrack for Kevin, but it’s all about having the car right. I felt like in 2014, we had a bit of an advantage. Our cars were a little bit better. We could be risky and do some things, put four tires on it when nobody else did, he’s going to drive it back to the front.
This year has been so close between everybody, all the different manufacturers, like I said earlier, you got such good drivers right now. It’s tight out there. If you’re off a half a 10th, you’re going to run fifth or sixth. It’s close.
Q. Rodney, you said Kevin said it was Dover where it was starting to feel like 2014.
RODNEY CHILDERS: We made big gains. We changed a lot of stuff around going to Chicago. Wed knew right then we were headed in the right direction, had a good car. When we got to Dover, we made a mistake on pit road. When you really look at the times for the whole race, all that stuff, he came in Monday morning after Dover and said, If we can make it drive like that every week, we’re going to be in good shape. It felt a lot more like ’14 and ’15.
Q. What does that mean?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I would never tell you (smiling).
Q. Does it feel like the car will do anything he wants it to do?
RODNEY CHILDERS: No. Sorry (smiling).
TONY STEWART: Don’t be sorry. If you tell him, I’m going to kick your ass (laughter).
Q. For the race team owner there, do you anticipate Kurt Busch will be back with the team next season, Smoke?
TONY STEWART: We’re still working through all that. Obviously it’s pretty busy right now. Obviously we’re going to have a big announcement next week for the 10 car. We’re still working on the 41 right now.
That’s our goal, is to have Kurt back in that car for next year.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on the victory and punching your ticket into the Championship Four.
TONY STEWART: Thank you.
RODNEY CHILDERS: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the winner of today’s race, Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford for Stewart‑Haas Racing. Today was Kevin’s 37th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win, his first series win here at Texas Motor Speedway.
This looked like vintage Kevin Harvick, the final 20 laps, hunting down the 78.
KEVIN HARVICK: Just really, really proud of everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing. But, yeah, the last 50 laps were definitely entertaining from the inside of the car just because of the fact that I had to get by the 22, I had to get by the 11. Really lap traffic helped me get to the 78 quicker than I probably should have just because of the fact that he got held up a little bit. That allowed me to start seeing where his weaknesses were, adapted a little bit to the things that he was struggling with, trying to get into turn one and to the center of the corner. I felt like that was his weakness.
So for me, I had to change a little bit on the entry in really both corners, maintain through three. He got hung up a little bit off of four in lap traffic. I was close enough. I knew I might not get another opportunity. So I drove it in there.
He got a little bit loose, I slid up the racetrack, was able to have plenty of grip when I slid up the racetrack, put the throttle down. I was able to get beside him. I thought I could get through three and four just as good through the middle. I had done that a couple times through the day. It wasn’t my preferred groove, but at that particular time you just got to hang it out there and see what happens. It all worked out.
Q. I know there’s great satisfaction, but any extra satisfaction in shutting Eddie up?
KEVIN HARVICK: Every time I come to Texas, it’s an ongoing joke. Eddie and I have a good relationship, but it’s an ongoing joke. You pull in the motorhome lot. You see the bag sitting outside the door, handwritten note, surely there’s some wisecrack in there that refers to not being in Victory Lane.
He’s always been very supportive. But he definitely has held that over my head for about 17 years, since I started. It’s nice to get that monkey off our back. Look, we’ve qualified well here, raced well here since I’ve been at Stewart‑Haas Racing. We’ve won six or seven XFINITY races, Truck races. So to kind of complete that whole sweep of winning in all the divisions is something that’s cool.
I think the timing of it is probably the best thing. I think not having to go to Phoenix and count points, try to win the race, do all the things that you might have to do, especially in this scenario, because if it wasn’t me, it could have been the 11 car very easily. That puts everybody in a bad spot going to Phoenix.
So I think with three cars locked in, you have to go there with the mindset, if you’re not already in, of winning the race. That’s hard to do. It’s hard to say that, I don’t have any other option other than win the race.
Mentally that’s sometimes easier. As you look at the guys that are way back in the points, going there just knowing your strategy is purely to win the race, sometimes being in the middle of the road is a little bit harder. When you think you need to win the race, you might make it in on points, that’s almost harder because you get stuck in the middle from a strategy standpoint.
It’s good timing. I think for us the mile‑and‑a‑half stuff has been really good in the Playoffs. It all started at Chicago. Really started at Darlington. Kurt ran well. We sat on the pole there. Ran two good stages, sat in the top three all day. Charlotte is where we had a chance to win I felt. Won a couple stages, led a bunch of laps. Felt like we were back in the game.
They’ve done a good job. I can’t emphasize enough how much work it has been to switch to Ford for everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing. The potential of where to go and the things we can do in the future is great. They all need a break. They’ve been just working day and night trying to get us caught up from a competitive standpoint.
Everything is just different. It’s much different than the things that we did in the past. You can start at the front of the car, talk about the body, talk about the underneath of the car, talk about the engine, transmission ratios. Anything you want to talk about has been different.
For me, that’s motivating, but I don’t have to do all the work. I can stand back and give input, think about things. I enjoy that part. It’s been fun. I can’t emphasize how much work it’s been, how proud I am of everybody to be at this point.
Q. Before the season started, you said the challenge of the change to Ford was one of the things that motivated you. Was there any point during the year you thought that this has been enough of a challenge, more than what you anticipated?
KEVIN HARVICK: It was more than I anticipated, for sure. My expectations going into the year, I was pretty open‑minded about where things could go. There could be some struggles.
I think when you look, the most important thing is try to figure out how to motivate your people, keep them all together, really be thorough in the direction from a driver’s standpoint in the things that you tell them, in the things that you push for, to make sure that they’re right.
It’s a big ship. When you have to change to a different style radiator, cut the front clip off of cars, you’re not just cutting them off of my car, but next week’s car, Kurt’s car, Clint’s and Danica’s. It snowballs into this huge, overwhelming workload.
I think in the middle of the year, we had a direction on a lot of things, but the R&D sometimes surpasses the production of things. Once they really started finding the things that were working and areas to work on, kind of the hot buttons of the car, then you got to get them put into place. Easy to draw them on the computer, take them to the wind tunnel, how you have to put them in production. Sometimes that production doesn’t keep up with the R&D side and you find yourself cutting bodies and things off that are brand‑new that never go to the track. That’s bad for morale.
It’s a balancing act of how fast you get there. When you look at it, Zipadelli has done a great job of listening to the crew chiefs, everybody talking about the things they have going on, the things they want to change, how do you implement that from a production standpoint.
We were able to get a couple cars in the Playoffs. We were fortunate to keep ourselves in the game. Here we are, two weeks to go. Still got a chance (smiling).
Q. Obviously this has to be a relief for you. Tony and Rodney both said you are laser focused, they’ve seen this drive in you before. Do you take next week and focus just on Homestead, going through your previous championship year? How do you attack to try to get this championship?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think at this point you just don’t even think about it. I feel like the things that we do every week, I’m going to prepare for Phoenix as though we need to go there and win the race, because winning’s a lot more fun. I think for us, the cars are already built, they’re in transit to the racetrack, plans are already laid out. I think as you look at those plans, they’re not going to be any different.
But as far as the things we go through on Monday, tomorrow, the things that we go through, the things we do, the things we watch, the things we talk about, we’re going to prepare for Phoenix first. I’m sure that they won’t do that in the shop, but I’m a one‑week guy. I can only focus on so many things.
I think as you look at all the workload, the things that I’ve had on my schedule, the things that we’ve done up to this point, they stop leading into Phoenix and Homestead just because you want to make sure you don’t miss anything.
I feel like the things that we’ve laid out and the structure of all the things that we’ve done is 100% focused on intending to go to Homestead and go to Phoenix with the intention of having to put everything you have in it to win the race. That was already laid out in 2016 as to how it was all going to work.
We’ll see if it all plays out.
Q. Both Zippy and Smoke said in Victory Lane they really like your chances at Homestead. If you had asked them that maybe three, four months ago, they might not have said the same thing. Given your comments earlier, do you feel the same way, more confident about your opportunity now ahead of you given what you and the organization have been able to put together?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, three or four months ago the conversation really was, How are we going to point our way through the Playoffs? We didn’t really feel like we were consistently in contention to win races, not leading laps. When you don’t lead laps, you can’t win races and control things. You can luck into them every once in a while, but you can’t control things like the 78 has done this year and the 18.
As the Playoffs have started, we started leading laps again at the mile‑and‑a‑half racetracks. That’s really been our focus. It has been our focus for the last four years because that’s really the bread and butter of what we do. Three or four months ago it was, How are we not going to make any mistakes, be thorough, capitalize on everybody else’s mistakes?
When we got done with Charlotte, Okay, we can still win a championship.
Those are two different thought processes of how you go through this championship process of 10 week. Especially as you get later in the, game, as you wind up with less and less cars, their teams all step up, usually have their best performances of the year as well.
Hopefully we can keep that rolling. But the mindset is definitely we think we can win, as it was not three months ago. That’s just the difference that three months has made.
Q. Rodney said he wasn’t on the radio with you at the end, it was all you. Martin said it was all you. The way the season is playing out, do you feel like the golden horseshoe has fallen out of someone’s butt and you’re picking it up?
KEVIN HARVICK: I sure hope so. I just need it for one more week. As you look at that, you can look ‑‑ I know I made that comment a long time ago. Being in this position for the last four years, you make a lot of your own luck.
As you look at the 48 team, the things that they’ve done over the past several years, we would call them lucky at the time. You’re only lucky when you’re in contention all the time. Those guys were in contention all the time. When you look back at it, it’s not lucky. It’s because they’re thorough, have fast cars. You still have to have some sort of luck. But when you’re still in the mix, give yourself a chance, that’s really kind of creating your own luck and trying to capitalize off of circumstances.
But you do have to have luck, especially when you go to Talladega (smiling).
Q. Can you address the fan support you received after the race. It’s been a while since we’ve seen so many fans crush the fence, give that kind of attention. Seemed like a big moment up here in the press box.
KEVIN HARVICK: That was pretty neat. I think back to my first win in Atlanta, coming off of turn two, all the fans were hanging on the fence from one end of the straightaway to the other. They were definitely crawling all over the fence and very supportive of the things that we’ve done.
I think when you look at coming to Texas, this has always been a very good market for us as far as fan support. I think it’s always been two or three on the fan support from a fan club, merchandise standpoint. There’s a lot of things that are good for us at Texas. We just let them down through the years by never getting to Victory Lane.
It was a lot of fun to hear the roar of those fans, see them all against the fence, just jacked up about the 4 car being in Victory Lane. It’s been an interesting year, to be honest with you, just from a fan standpoint. I feel like I have a much different connection with the fans than I’ve had in the past. I think a lot of that has to do with, I don’t know, the radio show, to be honest with you, just because there’s so many people get to hear what you think on Tuesday, not what you think five seconds after you climbed out of the car, act like a jack wad there, saying things you don’t even remember saying. You’re just amped up, excited, mad, all the things that come with those things.
I think for me, the radio show on Sirius has really allowed the fans to kind of hear what I think about the sport and the things that I love about the sport. I want to see this sport succeed. I’ve had this disconnect between the fans. They see you on the weekend, see one thing, now they hear you on a Tuesday, they hear you talk about things that are normal life, they hear you talk about things that are happening in the sport, happening with other teams, having other drivers on. We spend a lot of time trying to work on the young drivers. We’ll have Todd Gilliland, Charlie Daniels on this week. Those are two pretty cool guests. I can’t wait to have Charlie Daniels.
I think people for so many years, I’ve just missed that connection with them. Really it’s my fault just in letting them see you’re a normal person, do normal things be and love the sport.
Q. From a Ford standpoint, you came out of the box so fast. Toyotas have been dominant on the intermediate tracks. Right when it counts, you picked up the speed. Five Fords in the top 10. Solid day for the blue oval.
KEVIN HARVICK: Ford is greatly responsible for that. They have spent a lot of money a lot of time, a lot of effort in working on the Ford performance side of things. The tools and things we have access to, the effort they put just within the walls of SHR has been very refreshing.
I think as you look at the way things go, I didn’t know anybody from Ford, never have dealt with anybody from Ford, but I can tell you from the top down they’re very involved in not only our team but the Roush team, the Wood Brothers, Penske group. I think as we’ve gone through this, it does feel like one Ford. That’s what they push.
They take a lot from each team. As we’ve gone through the year, I think our relationship with especially the Penske side of things has developed. Brad and myself talk a lot. Paul and Rodney talk a lot. Those are the types of things that you need. It’s fun. I really appreciate all the support from the top down because they love racing. When you have a group of people that love racing, you put them with a bunch of racers like we have at Stewart‑Haas Racing, Gene, Tony, all the employees we have, it’s a good fit.
Q. Could you speak about the group it looks like going into the championship weekend. You’ve raced these guys for championships before, specifically Martin being in there, Kyle Busch. Does it feel familiar to you? Are you looking that far ahead to feel out how you like your chances against those guys?
KEVIN HARVICK: I honestly haven’t even really thought about it yet. I think as you look at the season, your ultimate goal is to wind up at Homestead with an opportunity to win the championship. I think if you look at the way the year has gone, you would expect to race the 78 and the 18 for the championship. I think everything from there was kind of a little bit of an unknown.
When we had Kyle on the outside looking in, I think everybody was a little bit surprised. When the 42 was eliminated, that was definitely a little bit of a surprise. I feel like if the 42 was still in the mix, he has so much confidence going into Homestead, he feels like that’s his best racetrack. I think he would have been hard to beat down there.
For us, Homestead has been great. We’ve won some races there. We’ve been ultra‑competitive there. It’s a very unique racetrack that is nothing like this one, that is nothing like any racetrack we go to, with the shape of the corners, the multiple variable banking. The two ends of the racetrack are very different. A very unique racetrack.
If you see somebody hit it that particular weekend, they can be on. But it’s never over until the checkered flag drops. We saw that last year. The three best cars didn’t win the championship. Two of them wrecked, Jimmie wound up winning the championship.
You just got to go down there and race. If we do like we did today, we should at least have a chance. That’s all you can ask for, is a chance, right?
Q. Is the bull back, the guy who tweeted the bull? Is that the type of attitude you have?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don’t even know what type of attitude I have right now. You know what I mean? We’ve been trying to be so thorough on everything that we’ve done. I felt like last week I took a very aggressive approach into Martinsville, from the time we got on the racetrack till the time we left. That worked out.
I feel like when you can be on offense, you can be aggressive, you can do a lot more things than you can when you’re back pedaling, trying to capitalize on somebody else’s mistake.
We’re going to be aggressive. I think as you look at it, it’s one of those scenarios where I feel confident in the things that we have going on right now. I feel confident in the team. I can feel the confidence in the team, the things they’re doing. You can see the results.
As we’ve come to the Playoffs, the stages that we’ve won, the laps that we’ve led, they don’t really even match up with the rest of the year. Outside of Atlanta and Daytona, don’t really match up. We haven’t had enough top fives and led enough laps this year. That’s really the measuring stick to see if you can win races, is finishes in the top five and laps led.
Q. (No microphone.)
KEVIN HARVICK: I feel like we’ve been more competitive to be on offense. When you can see those guys and race with them, that definitely puts you in a position to be more aggressive because you can at least race with them. That’s not something that we did all year.
Q. I think you tested already in Homestead. Given that maybe at the race weekend you will have similar or identical weather conditions, can you go with what you had with the test or you try new stuff?
KEVIN HARVICK: We didn’t test at Homestead. I don’t like testing at Homestead. I think it’s a waste of time just because of the fact there’s never enough rubber on the racetrack. We went down there and tested one year, it was such a cluster when we went back to the race, I didn’t feel it was beneficial.
Homestead is so unique, you have to do a lot of things different. You can’t do the same things you do here. It’s just the way that you enter the corners, the way that the corners are shaped, are so much different than everywhere else that we go, you can’t have the same approach.
Luckily I’ve been there a lot. Rodney has been there a lot. We have a notebook of things that have worked. Clint went down and collected all the information and did the test, felt like their speed was comparable.
We have to do a lot of the same things we’ve been doing in theory. But the way that you take it to the racetrack will in theory be the same but it will be different. It has to be. That’s just the things that happen at Homestead, they’re just different because of the way the racetrack is shaped.
Q. Do you plan to continue to doing Happy Hours in 2018, that fan engagement with the show?
KEVIN HARVICK: Our last show is the Tuesday after Homestead. That will be our last show for the season. But I think we’ll get it figured out for next year.
Q. You and Dale have radio shows, blogs, podcasts. He has been known to call people out, specifically Toyotas for blowing their tires out for the burnout after the wins. Are you worried about being on his show this week and will you have a response?
KEVIN HARVICK: I have no problem. Call me out. Just make sure you do it on Monday (smiling). I didn’t like the last time I called him out.
Yeah, you can go see the burnouts from 2001 in the RCR museum. When you start talking about burnouts, you got to go back and do your fact checks. There are three of them sitting there. One of them form 2001, one from 2007, one from 2003. There is one from the Brickyard, one from the Daytona 500, one from Rockingham when we won the Busch championship. It’s not something that’s new. Ron Hornaday started it in 1988.
Thank you, guys.