THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today’s NASCAR teleconference with Kevin Harvick. Kevin currently sits 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings, 56 points behind Brad Keselowski. He has one top five and six top 10 finishes at Kansas Speedway.
What are your thoughts and expectations going into the weekend at Kansas Speedway since the track has been repaved?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think there’s a lot of unknowns leading into the race this weekend. We’ll have plenty of time to figure it out over the next couple of days.
It’s a great time for us as we obviously need to have a little more speed in our cars, so we’ve got a lot of things on the agenda to try to accomplish that and learn the racetrack at the same time and be able to have a good weekend and hopefully close out the year well.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Kevin. We’ll now go to the media for questions.
Q. Kevin, just wanted to ask you about your new competition director and how you think that might improve your team.
KEVIN HARVICK: I think obviously when Scott Miller left, there’s kind of been a void in that particular area of the company. As many of you know and you hear us preach all the time, this sport is really all about people. I think for us having Eric in that position will lead to some structure and some focus on a lot of things that we need to get better at.
Just having somebody there on a daily basis is going to be a step in the right direction. Now it’s all about putting a system into place that everybody buys into to lead everybody on a day-to-day basis and hopefully make things better.
Q. Kevin, I was told at Dover that Dr. Warren was waiting out a non-compete, but he would be coming. So you haven’t seen him over there yet for 2013. What actually do you know about him? Have you met him, had a chance to chat with him?
KEVIN HARVICK: No, I have actually not met Eric. Obviously heard a lot about him. Have never worked with him before.
Obviously there’s a relationship to have to build there, see his stance on a lot of things within the structure and direction of the company. Just a lot of legal things that had to take place. Looking forward to hearing what he has to say and where we’re going.
Q. How much do you think the testing the next couple of days will really affect who is able to pull off a win at Kansas?
KEVIN HARVICK: It’s a situation where you look back at the Pocono races, you look back at Michigan, this race this weekend is probably going to be much of the same. With the restarts being very important, as we lead into the race, really not knowing what to expect as you go into this first corner side-by-side for the first time how much grip is going to be there, if you remember back to the first Pocono race.
There’s a lot of unknowns, a lot of things that could go wrong. I think track position is going to be very important.
Obviously with all the cars being on the racetrack, the grooves should be fairly well burned in and hopefully as wide as it needs to be to get the race started. So we’ll see.
There’s a lot on our agenda this week to try to make our own cars go better. I think when it comes race time, it’s going to be about restarts and strategy.
Q. I know you focus on your team, what your team is doing. What are your thoughts on the Dillon brothers? Have you had any chance to watch them compete?
KEVIN HARVICK: Obviously they’ve done a really good job with the divisions that they’ve raced in, won championships, with the Nationwide stuff, the truck stuff, the ARCA stuff. I think both of them have a pretty good opportunity to take their career all the way up the ranks.
It’s been fun to watch. They’re good kids. They like to race. It’s fun to watch them get better.
Q. Make you feel old at all?
KEVIN HARVICK: Make me feel old? Yeah, you know, for me, I remember back to where I was 17, 18, 19, 20 years old. You look back at the opportunity that they have with the equipment that they have, and they respect that. They know the opportunity and the things they have in front of them.
It’s fun to see that young enthusiasm. You see them starting the first half of their career, I’m starting the second half of my career. It’s fun to have those differences of generations there, how the approach is different from one to the other.
Q. Kevin, in light of everything that happened with Dale Jr., the two concussions he had in a very short period of time, do you think there’s anything NASCAR can do to take more of a proactive approach when it comes to sidelining drivers who have health concerns like that?
KEVIN HARVICK: I know for us at RCR, we already have baseline scans we put in place a couple years ago. We have some things that Richard has made us put in place already.
It’s just a matter of what the team does, how it’s supposed to be structured, how far you want to take it. It’s a fine balance. I think obviously when Dale Jr. has a situation like this, everybody’s looking at it a little bit differently than they have in the past.
Q. For example, if you were to get into an accident and you felt like maybe you weren’t feeling quite right, there’s people on the team that check you out and let you know if you can go racing or not?
KEVIN HARVICK: First thing you have to do with yourself is realize there’s a problem. We’ve all been banged up or hurt in the past and had to decide exactly what was wrong. In order to do that, you have to go to the doctor and you have to report that to NASCAR.
In the end it’s ultimately our own responsibility to take those actions.
Q. 240 possibly points for the next five Chase races. It’s tough to catch up for a team when they fall behind. If one of the leaders has a bad day, all of a sudden you can catch up. How do these points affect your mindset going into the next race?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I really think for 99% of the guys, the approach is going to be to go out and run as fast as you can. Our approach really doesn’t change. We’re going to bring the best car we have in the shop and we’re going to put an effort into it the same every week to try to go out and win the race. If you can’t win the race, you try to get the best finish you can.
That approach, they could put 500 points out there, they could put 4 points out there, we’re going to try to go and win every week.
A lot of people talk about points, approaches, what you change, do different. We don’t do anything different. We go to the racetrack every week and take the fastest car and try to win the race.
Q. Kevin, this year we had a lot of tracks that were repaved like Michigan, making it so fast. Next year it will be racing with a new car. I’m just wondering, does that mean no time off, no vacation, because of preparing for things like new cars and new racing surfaces?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, we did do a lot of testing this year with all the new surfaces, for sure. I think with the 2013 stuff coming, they’ve opened the testing policy up. We still have the other racetracks we can test at to work things out. It’s definitely going to be a time management issue, not putting your team behind.
Right now we don’t really exactly know what the rules are on the 2013 car. You’re really not able to get too far ahead of the game because the rules aren’t set.
There will definitely be a mad scramble at the beginning of the year to get on the racetrack and understand the car, get your simulation, all the things that the engineers need to work with. You have to be on the racetrack and you have to get things headed in the right direction. It’s definitely going to be a lot of work. You’re definitely right the off-season could be pretty short.
Q. Curious of the changes announced today as far as qualifying procedures for next year. Is it a big deal that qualifying order is based on the random draw, the top 35 rule going away in favor of old-style qualifying you had in the past?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think there’s a lot of other rules we might be able to go back on some old-style rules as well.
I think those are all good changes. As you go into Daytona, you see things get mixed up for the qualifying races, just having the top 35 rule go away, if somebody shows up and qualifies good. The practice stuff was so hard for the guys to be able to come to the racetrack in race trim, and you switch, then you had the sandbagging going on. That rule just didn’t really work.
I think with the qualifying draw, it really adds some drama back into the qualifying order just for the fact if you get a bad draw, you qualify 20th, you’re going to have the fastest car in the back or the middle of the field.
I’m in favor of all the things they did. There’s definitely some more work ahead to get things where everybody wants them. But NASCAR did a great job with these rule changes.
Q. I assume you feel that if you can’t be in the top 36 in qualifying speed, you’re low enough in points not to get a provisional, you have bigger problems than just kind of one race?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah. And I think when you look back at it, I don’t think it’s really going to change much. I’m sure you’ve run the numbers. I’m sure you’ve gone through this and looked back to see if it would have changed anybody not making the race at any particular point.
It’s something where I don’t think it’s going to change much, but I think it opens the door for new people to come in and make the races, make that little bit easier than locking the top 35 cars in.
Q. Just looking ahead to Martinsville next week, Clint earlier mentioned it’s a wild card in the Chase. Do you feel the same way about Martinsville?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think Kansas is much more of a wild card than Martinsville at this point. I think, look, any race can be a wild card. You can have some crazy things happen that we’ve seen in the past, whether it’s Martinsville or Kansas repave, going to Homestead, and Phoenix is still a relatively new racetrack. I really think every race is a wild card at this point, especially if you’re in the championship race and need every point that you can get.
You never know what’s going to happen, when the caution is going to fly, blow a tire, whatever the case may be. Anything can happen.
Q. This weekend we qualify on Friday as opposed to Saturday. As a driver, which do you prefer and why?
KEVIN HARVICK: I’m really in favor of the Friday qualifying sessions just for the fact that you get that hour and a half of practice and you can really focus on one thing, and that’s qualifying. Really it’s about the guys working on the car, in my opinion, and the amount of times they have to switch the car from qualifying trim, to race trim, back to qualifying trim. There’s a lot more going on Saturday when you can have two practices for the race. You’re closer to race day so you can get your car adjusted a little bit better. So Friday sessions, in my opinion, are the way to go.
Q. What are maybe some of the things you as a driver do to prepare for a race weekend when you test Wednesday and Thursday and resume regular schedule Friday through Sunday?
KEVIN HARVICK: For us this test is coming at a good time. We have a lot of things we have in our minds that are questions of whether they’re right or wrong.
Going to Kansas this week with a couple days of testing, we’re able to run through those things with data on the car and be able to look at the things that are happening to the car on the racetrack.
Having that telemetry, being able to look at that, I think we’ll be able to try some things that we normally wouldn’t be able to try on a race weekend and be able to take those things into a race weekend at Kansas.
Q. You said there’s some other rules that you think NASCAR could go back to the old style. Could you elaborate on that at all?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, I don’t think there’s one particular thing that I’d like to elaborate on. I might voice my opinion to the NASCAR folks, but I don’t think it’s any one thing in particular.
I think as far as scheduling and racetracks, I think we all have our own opinions on what they should be. In the end, those are NASCAR decisions. I don’t want to be the politician on all this stuff.
THE MODERATOR: Kevin, thank you for joining us today. Best of luck this weekend in Kansas and for the remainder of the Chase.
KEVIN HARVICK: Thanks for having me.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you to the media for joining us as well today.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.