Ford Performance NASCAR: Daytona Media Day 5 (Kevin Harvick)

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR Media Day | Friday, February 5, 2021

KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Busch Light #TheCrew Ford Mustang – DID YOU GET THE IMPRESSION OTHER TEAMS WERE LOOKING AT RCR FOR SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS IN 2001 AFTER DALE EARNHARDT’S ACCIDENT? DID YOU FEEL ANY EXTRA RESPONSIBILITY? “I did not. I think as I look back to 2001 it was really NASCAR that kind of took the bull by the horns and really led that charge. I think for us, and especially our team, I would venture to say it was the exact opposite – a little bit of confusion and not really understanding exactly where we needed to be, what was right, what was wrong. There was so much change during that particular time period that it was hard to keep up with a lot of things. I know one of the first things to come out was the Hutchens device, which obviously came within our organization, but I think as you look at the sport in general that’s really something that has continued through today as we sit here today has been a charge that was 100 percent led by NASCAR, and all the things that they changed with the racetracks and the mandates that were put into place through the years to where we are today. That’s been a huge effort from their part and a huge undertaking, but I think that day things changed forever and I would give all that credit to NASCAR. The teams have been part of that innovation, but there’s also been a lot of safety companies that have put so much time and effort into making their products better. You look around the world and you look at all the innovation and things that have changed through the years, it’s been pretty dramatic from what we raced on that particular day.”

WHAT HAS THE PROCESS BEEN LIKE GOING THROUGH KEELAN’S RACING CAREER? “That’s a loaded question. I think, for me, this would have all never started if it wasn’t for COVID. We were really kind of set in our plans of the things that we wanted to do and where we wanted to go and how we wanted to spend time with our kids, and he had really not shown a lot of interest in going to the racetrack. When COVID started the iRacing stuff started. We were not really in school. Everything was kind of virtual once it started back and he looked over one day while we were sitting on our iRacing simulators and he said, ‘Why aren’t we racing?’ I’m like, ‘Well, you never asked.’ So, we started going to the racetrack some more and getting prepared for the first club race at Go Pro when they finally opened up and ran the first club race and he qualified on the pole for the first club race and really the rest has kind of been history – not even a year really since that particular point. It’s really the first thing that he’s shown that amount of interest in, that he actually wants to practice first of all. Everything else he didn’t want to practice, but I think for us it really kind of changed the way that we lived, the way that we did things along with COVID, and really changed a number of things in our lives and the way that we went about things. For the relationship part of it has been really good for us as a family. It’s been really good for Keelan and I. It’s also very challenging to be the teacher and try to basically build a race team. I mean, you have to race at the level that he’s going to race at you have to treat it like it’s an actual race team because it is, so I think there’s a number of things that have happened with our personal relationship, that bond getting stronger, that driver/mentor relationship, trying to find that balance as being dad as well was and still is challenging, but, look, if it’s something he wants to do I’m gonna push him hard to do the things that he wants to do. He still has to have fun, but if you want to be good at it, you have to have your boundaries pushed on a daily basis and I feel like I do that. It’s also been really good for me to understand and remember why I love racing, and going to the racetrack and seeing all the things and the challenges that come with not only teaching him, but putting the vehicles together and it reminds me a lot of the things that we’ve done at KHI in the past and I remember why I like those things because it’s a different way of competing and I love to compete, so I think from that standpoint I now remember why I love going into that shop everyday and talking to the people and understanding what was going on. So, from an all-around racing aspect of it, it’s reminded me of why I love so many aspects of this sport and from a family standpoint and a father-son relationship it’s made us stronger from both ends.”

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR FIRST WIN AND THE LAST LAP OR TWO? “There’s a number of things that I don’t remember. There’s a few things that I vividly remember about everything that went on on that particular day. The first thing that I remember was the five of us racing there at the end and then it kind of dwindled down. I remember some random things. I think as I look back at that race I kind of caught myself wandering with a couple laps to go because it was hard not to notice the people hanging on the fence on the back straightaway – were right next to the fence on the back straightaway – and, really, it’s those moments that I remember how loud the crowd was after I did my burnout and driving around that racetrack backwards. That’s really about it. The rest of it is a little bit confusing as to what you remember, what you don’t remember. It was obviously a moment I don’t think any of us expected, weren’t supposed to be in, but there are a number of things that obviously changed in the weeks before that and continued to change. So, for us, that was supposed to be my first race in the Cup Series with America Online as our sponsor with my Busch Series team at the time going up together, and obviously everything changed on that side after the Daytona 500. It took me a long time to really get comfortable to really even think about things that happened that day. There were so many things that happened backwards in my career. I look at my very first Cup Series press conference and that’ll be the biggest press conference with the most notoriety or anything that ever comes from a moment like that, or a moment in general because of a moment like that. Your first experience will always be your biggest one from my standpoint, so then you look at the first win and you’ll probably never receive or get that type of notoriety or attention or anything that came with that. For a number of years I was uncomfortable with all that because it was so overwhelming in the beginning and really turned defensive in a lot of different ways because I just wasn’t anticipating any of that and understanding the magnitude of all those things that came with driving the car first, then winning in the car, and a lot of that didn’t really come into play and take effect until 2002 when you had to start making decisions, and then by that particular point you’d made some people mad and had to start changing things and then people didn’t like it and it wasn’t their same situation and wasn’t my same situation, so there was just a number of things that changed through 2002. But I raced through so much in 2001 that it just covered a lot of that stuff up because I didn’t have time to prepare or stop and think about it. There was just a number of things that were extremely overwhelming with that whole scenario.”

HOW DO YOU FOLLOW UP ON THE SEASON YOU HAD A YEAR AGO? IT’S A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW. “Yeah, the expectation is to go out and be competitive. I think as you look at last year that’s one of those that you check off as a career year and you obviously want to do that again, but I’ve been around this long enough to understand that those types of seasons don’t come around all the time. But, look, it’s not to say that it’s not possible because that’s surely the goal – to try to repeat that and do that again. The expectations are obviously the same as they were every other year. I think as you look back you capitalized on the days you’re good. You capitalized on some days when people have trouble and we ran well at the racetracks we were supposed to run well at and made good days out of them. It was definitely a great year. I think as we go into this year the expectations are to be competitive and try to put yourself in position to win races again. This is something that we do every year and last year we were just fortunate to put ourselves in victory lane a few more times than we had in the past, so they’re not all gonna go like that, but that’s the goal.”

HOW MUCH INTERACTION HAVE YOU HAD WITH BEN KENNEDY? WHAT’S YOUR IMPRESSION OF HIS ROLE? “I really haven’t had hardly any interaction with Ben. I don’t really know him that well, so I’m probably not the right one to speak on that particular person.”

BRAD AND JOEY ARE GOING INTO THEIR NINTH SEASON AT PENSKE. YOU HAVE NOT HAD A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP WITH A TEAMMATE. IS THAT REALLY AS IMPORTANT FOR SUCCESS AS SOME PEOPLE SEEM TO THINK IT IS? “I don’t know that it’s completely important. The most important thing is to have other competitive cars. I think that’s really what pushes the race teams to get better at a more rapid pace and cover more details is the fact that it’s a fact that when you have more competitive cars you can make things happen faster, and it’s just better for the company in general. No matter who is driving the cars, you want those cars to be as competitive as possible because it helps you as a teammate and as a crew chief or whatever the situation is you need somebody to be able to bounce ideas off of. You need other cars to run well in order to try different things and keep your mind open to different things as well, so there are a number of benefits to having as many cars as possible running well in order to make yourself better and make the company better at a more rapid pace.”

AFTER JEFF AND TONY CAME IN THE SEARCH SEEMED TO FOCUS ON MIDGET, SPRINT CAR, AND USAC TYPE DRIVER TALENT. WITH THE WAY CHASE ELLIOTT HAS PERFORMED DO YOU FEEL THE MODEL HAS SWUNG MORE TO MORE LATE MODELS, ARCA, XFINITY? “I don’t think so, and I think over the next couple weeks you’ll have a very firm understanding of where my mindset is as far as driver development and what that path needs to be. As I look at that and we’ve been working on a number of things in that category to try to put ourselves in position 10 years down the road from a KHI Management standpoint and be associated with what we think is the next generation of drivers. I think as you look at, I think you’re gonna have to be very versatile. I think our sport is going to continue to change. I think you’re gonna have to be an extraordinary road racer as you go into the next five years, just because of what you’re seeing this year and the opportunities of where you can race and the different racetracks and things that we can go to. Obviously, when you look at Bristol Dirt, it’s not going to be a late model dirt race or a midget dirt race, but having those backgrounds is going to be important, I think. When you look at just a straight-up asphalt oval late model racer, I don’t know that that’s going to be 100 percent where you need to be. I think you definitely have to have that background, but I think being versatile and having that car control that is taught from a midget, sprint car standpoint – you look at road racing and whether you can just get so many opportunities in so many different forms of racing at such a young age I think it’s very important as you go forward to really consider how much time you spend on one craft in trying to put yourself into being just a good oval racer is not going to work as you go forward. You’re going to have to be a good oval racer, but you’re also gonna have to be a very good road racer, in my opinion.”

WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOUR TEAM IS IN ITS ROAD RACING PROGRAM? “I’ll tell you in a few days.”

DO YOU THINK EVERYONE ON THE TEAM HAS TURNED THE PAGE ON 2020 AND READY FOR THIS SEASON? “If they haven’t, I don’t want to talk about it. I think as the season ended and we got about a week through it I was done and over with it and had a lot to do moving forward. In this business you just don’t have time to dwell on it. If you’re gonna continue to be good at what you do, you have to be able to put your mind back to work and take the things that went wrong and make them better, re-focus and you have to use those things as motivation in order to make those particular things better. I think those guys know that, I feel like I’m wasting my breath talking about everything that happened last year because we’ve talked about what went wrong and I’ve moved on and tried to be ready for this particular season – to do the things that you need to do in order to get the season started right and be competitive on a week to week basis. They know that I’ll get pretty frustrated if they want to sit and dwell on what happened last year when we’re already into just over a week away from the Daytona 500. They better have moved on. If they haven’t, they don’t talk to me about it.”

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS GOING INTO THE BRISTOL DIRT RACE? DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING PLANNED TO PREPARE? “Not at this particular point. I think in the end it’s one race, so I think a lot of what we’ve done is prepare for the majority of the schedule. I think as you look at Bristol Dirt it’s not going to be like racing a midget or a dirt late model. As Ken Schrader would put it, you’re still gonna drive a Cup car. I think the things that happen and the things that go on are obviously going to be different. It’s probably the all-time longest dirt race ever at 250 laps, so we’ll see what happens to the racetrack and I think it’s gonna be a little bit of a learning experience for everybody. I’ve not driven any of these cars on dirt, so I think at that particular point, and I’ve told Rodney this, I think you lean on the guy that has the most experience and he’s our newest guy and that’s Chase Briscoe. He’s obviously run and won on the dirt at Eldora, has a dirt background, and we’re just gonna kind of take a backseat and follow the guidance from somebody who knows what they’re doing and try to be good students. I think as that weekend progresses and, luckily, we get some practice and we have some plans of things that we’re going to do as we get closer to the race, but for the most part you can’t get too far ahead of things and try to work on something that’s only one race.”

HAS THERE BEEN ANY REFLECTION ON HAVING SUCH A HUGE SEASON AND NOT GETTING TO THE FINAL FOUR, OR DO YOU JUST PUT IT BEHIND YOU? “My focus is always on week to week winning races. I think in the end it didn’t really matter. We ran terrible at Phoenix, so it’s not like you were gonna win the championship anyway. It didn’t really matter as we got to Phoenix and with the way that we ran. I think you look back on it and, like I said earlier, you take the things that you did at each one of those racetracks and you try to make them better because that’s really what it’s all about is, ‘How do I stay focused on a week to week basis? What did we do last year at this particular racetrack? What did we do good? What did we do bad? Show me the strengths. Show me the weaknesses. Show me where we beat them. Show me where we were getting beat.’ And it’s the same preparation over and over and over, and the whole championship layout is something that is what it is, but it changes zero in your preparation. It really doesn’t change a thing. You go to the racetrack and, for me, I’m not gonna go to the racetrack and points race. We’re gonna go to the racetrack and try to put ourselves in position to win the race and then the second thing when you can’t do that is gain the most points that you can on that particular day and you go home. It’s just not something that I overthink. It’s not something that really gets me up or down, winning or losing. It doesn’t. It doesn’t really affect how I prepare on Monday. We can finish dead last or we can finish first and I’m gonna do the exact same thing when it comes to Monday morning. That part doesn’t change for me.”

AT WHAT POINT IN YOUR CAREER, IF ANY, DID YOU FEEL LIKE YOU STARTED COMING OUT OF HIS SHADOW AND WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT HIS LEGACY AND IMPACT ON NASCAR, WHERE DO YOU THINK HE HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT? “I think when you look at the affect that, in my opinion, that Dale had on the sport it was in a number of different ways. First off, Dale had a great relationship with NASCAR and could move the needle when things needed to be moved from a competitor’s standpoint like really no other driver has been able to do, ever. I think the impact that he has had after his death on the safety of this sport has been something that’s just far greater than would have happened with anybody else, and I think that impact will probably be his impact from a competitor’s standpoint that some of them at this particular day and age might not even realize the impact that he has had on the safety side of it. I think when you look back he changed so many things about our sport in so many different ways just because of A, the relationship with NASCAR, but, B, he was just willing to do things differently and think outside the box and got connected with the right people in different scenarios of what they did. You look back and you look at the souvenir side of things, as he wrapped his arms around a lot of the other drivers in the sport and created a souvenir business that was obviously very large in the heyday of souvenir sales. He’s changed the game on a number of different levels throughout the sport and just having that demeanor and the way that he went about giving it everything that he had, to do whatever he had to do to try to win a race or gain a position was just something that the fans always latched on to and liked, so there’s just a number of things that he will forever had his hand in and change for a number of different reasons. As far as the shadow was obviously big and it was something, for me, that I always did things the way that I liked them and always had kind of beat my own path as I went about things and made changes and drove the car and things that you did, and for the first four or five years it was difficult just because of the fact that everything that you did was always compared to everything that Dale did. It was always, ‘it wouldn’t have been handled this way or it would have been handled this way, and this guy did that and that guy did this,’ and it was just never something that was comfortable because as I said earlier I became defensive about, ‘well, I’m just not doing it that way in anything.’ I didn’t want to do anything that was the same way just because I got tired of hearing it, so as you got through the Goodwrench days and they kind of gravitated off the car and you had been in position to win a few races and start to get your own sponsors and really start to be able to have your own people around you and that really, for me, made things more comfortable because of the fact that you were living on your success and it wasn’t something that was given to you or position that you were in that you didn’t deserve. It was a position that you had earned, which was always the way that I felt like I wanted to go about things was you needed to earn it in order to be where you were. I feel like you totally got out from underneath all that because it still, I mean we’re 20 years later and it’s forever going to be compared just because of the fact of the way that everything went, but when I changed teams and went to Stewart-Haas Racing I felt like that in 2014 was really the year that you were able to legitimize everything that you had done and doing just because you were capable of driving the car and being around people and doing the things that it took to win races and win a championship, so it took a long time.”

DERRIKE COPE IS IN HIS SIXTIES AND WILL BE IN THE 500. DOES AGE MATTER TO SUCCESS IN NASCAR? “I think that depends on how successful you are. I think as you go through this sport you have to be committed to what you’re doing. You have to have a great team around you. You have to have all the things in place and order to be successful and win races. In the end, that’s really what it comes down to. If you’re not capable of winning races and being in position to be competitive, it’s just not as much fun, it really isn’t. I think, for me, I love the sport and I love driving the car and I love being around the people and I love competing, but not being successful would definitely make it a lot more difficult to go week to week and do the things that we do. I love the fact that I can show up with my group of guys, we can get to the racetrack and we can beat the group next to us. Being able to go back to the shop and in today’s world do a fist bump or elbow bump and know that you showed up and beat those guys on a day when you shouldn’t have beat them or a day should have beat them doesn’t matter, you want to be successful with that group of guys because those are the guys you’re at battle with and there’s just something about that feeling that makes you want to go back and do it again. There’s no more satisfaction than winning a race and being able to know that you can wrap your arms around those guys and know that they’re a part of that success and we’re all successful together.”

HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU SEE DIVERSIFYING YOURSELF AT THIS STAGE OF YOUR CAREER, AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR GUY LIKE YOU AND CHASE ELLIOTT TO DABBLE IN GRASSROOTS RACING TO GROW THE BRAND OF NASCAR? “I think as I look at the things that I’ve been able to experience and as I talked about earlier, I look at the things that Denny Hamlin has done with the race team and being able to push those buttons and build those buildings and build those cars and put those people together, that’s something that as I’ve gone through this last year with Keelan I think I realized that I enjoy. I would thoroughly enjoy being in a situation like that as I go forward, whether it’s the next 5-10 years, whatever that is, there’s a number of things that I enjoy from that side of things that I’m not telling you I want to own a race team, I’m telling you I’d love to be involved in running one. I love the fact that I can still compete in the car and that’s the number one priority. Look, the TV stuff is obviously interesting as we move forward, but, right now, it’s way more fun to be in that car and competing on a weekly basis to go out and try to accomplish something as a group and be able to do that year after year is something that I think we all take pride in. As far as competing at the grassroots level, I think you have to have something that you enjoy and I think especially for somebody like Chase, who has obviously become a champion and knows that he’s going to be around this sport for a long time, being able to race different things and be able to enjoy being inside of a race car, no matter what it is, where it is or what type of surface it’s on, I think being able to challenge himself – and that’s really what I took from listening to the things that he said and did at the Chili Bowl – just pushing yourself to do things that you normally wouldn’t do and not be embarrassed or beat yourself up over the fact that you didn’t do well at it. I think as you go back you have to get through that first experience of something that’s new and be over the fear and worry of not being successful and then you can go back and be way better at it the next time and be more competitive and it’s a constant learning curve, especially in that situation as the Chili Bowl was in order to go there and be competitive is not easy, so to step outside of that box and know that you’re gonna go there and struggle, but you’ve got to go there at some point to learn how to do that is something that takes a lot of guts. I think to see him do that and see him just show up to the event and do what he did was fun for me to watch and really understanding the type of courage that it takes to do something like that because of the criticism and all the things and all the chatter around you that will come with that it was pretty awesome to see, so I think it’s important to be at the grassroots level in some way, shape or form as you go through your years of time on the Cup side.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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