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Q&A: Harvick Talks About Fuel Problems And Chase Pressures

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 1 2015
Kevin Harvick will start Sunday's Sprint Cup race in need of a great finish.  (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s Sprint Cup race in need of a great finish. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

Kevin Harvick, who has suffered back-to-back lousy finishes in the first round of the 16-driver, 10-race, elimination-format Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship this year, was the guest on NASCAR’s weekly media teleconference.

Harvick, who crashed in the first Chase race and ran out of fuel with three laps to go in the bugqasecond, left the New Hampshire Motor Speedway track without talking to reporters last Sunday.

On Thursday, he answered all questions. The following is a transcript of the teleconference:

Kevin, your team is no stranger to performing under pressure.  Talk about your mindset heading into the final race of the challenger round on Sunday.

KEVIN HARVICK:  It’s really no different than how we would approach any other week.  I think as you look at the scenario, I think obviously, we have been in this position before.

And, but in the end it doesn’t really change the approach at all.  As you go into the weekend, you start on Monday, you finish up last week, you have your competition meeting, you talk about next week and then you go about normal life throughout the week.

So, it’s really no different, other than the circumstances with the points and the championship and everything that goes with it.  But as far as an approach standpoint, we’ll do everything exactly the same.

Obviously you were in this situation last year, although at a different track, and you guys came through with flying colors.  I know you have confidence in your guys and your cars, but does having done this last year add sort of an extra level of confidence to that?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I think we’re confident in our ability and the things that we do to prepare the cars and race on any given weekend.  I think as you look at the scenario, obviously it is what it is.  And I think last year we were able to perform and get the results that we needed.

So, it’s really the same thing that we did last week, it just didn’t all work out in the last three laps.

So I think as we go into this weekend, I think it’s been a really good racetrack for us, performance‑wise, over the last year and a half.

And we have had a couple of freak things happen with the lug nut knocking the valve stem off a couple of times at the same racetrack.  But led a bunch of laps and looking forward to the challenge this weekend.

And, obviously, for me personally, I like these types of situations, I think they’re different and fun and it’s all in the approach and how you react to them.

So I think as a team, we’ll do everything in our ‑‑ from a preparation standpoint the same.  But I think if you can get the result and get that sensation of winning and all the things that come with the type of situation that we’re in, it’s even more fun.

Two-part question.  One, did the team figure out exactly what happened with the fuel situation on Sunday?  Rodney said it might have been ‑‑ on Sunday, said it might have been a busted part or fuel cell bladder issue.  Did you guys find out exactly what the issue was?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I actually haven’t spoken specifically to Rodney about what happened.  I try to stay out of those types of scenarios, just because of the fact that I can just add more layers to the process of trying to figure that out.

I know from a mileage standpoint, it was definitely something that shouldn’t have been an issue to make it to the number as far as gas in the tank, as far as how much gas it pulled out, or if the car was actually full or not.  I don’t know the answer to that a hundred percent.

Stretching fuel last week and then Chicago not pitting with the tire rub.  Did you feel like there were some unnecessary risks taken by the team or do you feel confident that those were still the right decisions to make at the time?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I don’t look at either of those scenarios as risks.  I think, obviously, Chicago ‑‑ the tire rub is hard to see and I think with the smoke going away and you obviously didn’t know it was as bad as it was.  So it’s definitely something that you have to react pretty quickly on.  I think last week nobody viewed as a risk, just for the fact that it shouldn’t have even been close with the pace that we had to run and the mileage that we had gathered from everything that we had in the pit box.

So I don’t think anybody views last week as a risk, just for the fact that the mileage wasn’t even close.

I know this is old news, but I wasn’t at New Hampshire and perhaps I missed it, but have you and Jimmie Johnson communicated over what happened at Chicago?

KEVIN HARVICK:  We have moved ‑‑ as a team, we have moved onto Dover.

So, I take it you haven’t and you have no to plans to communicate.

KEVIN HARVICK:  We’re just concentrating on things that we need to right now.

You had such a great season, so consistent running up front and everything, and we all know this is ‑‑ these things happen in The Chase where you can be in this position.  Are you kind of shocked that you’re in this?  I suspect that you had no idea that you are where you are after two races.

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, I think as a competitor and when you look at other sports and as a competitor in general, you know that situations like this are ‑‑ I mean, we have had these situations last year, to be perfectly honest with you, in a different round, but the same scenario as we had last year after Martinsville and with the win into Phoenix, and then going into homestead.

So it’s not something that we haven’t been a part of.  And I think as a race team, you know that these types of situations are going to come about and you react to them the best that you can and you swing for the fence and hope that you make a spectacular moment.

So it’s something that you know you’re going to be a part of at some point, and we have been a part of many times throughout my career as far as scenarios, situations, and it’s just really part of sports and that’s what makes it exciting.

Wanted to ask you about Tony’s announcement yesterday.  You put up a nice statement on the Internet.  But really a life changing situation for you hooking up with Stewart‑Haas Racing and what have you been able to accomplish in the last two years?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Yeah, I think that as you look at everything that Tony announced yesterday, obviously I’ve known for a while.  And yesterday ‑‑ I told Tony last night, I said, that one kind of hit me like a ton of bricks.  Just for the fact that it’s actually out there and it’s real and it’s going to happen and that’s the decision that he’s made.

So, for me, I came to Stewart‑Haas Racing for several reasons, but I think that one of the biggest reasons was to come race with Tony and lean on him for not only his friendship, but his experience of winning championships as a driver and a car owner.  And to be able to experience what we did last year with him was really special, just for the fact that obviously that was my first championship and just to bring something positive into to end his year was important and fun for me, personally, all in the same breath.

So it was definitely ‑‑ it’s definitely something that has kind of caught my attention and I haven’t really known how to react to it, just for the fact that it’s real now.

So, I think as we move forward, I think Tony will be obviously a big part of the race team and still there for us to lean on for advice probably more than he is now.  And I think he’ll be a great figure as we move forward for Stewart‑Haas Racing and still be a great friend and somebody that I can lean on off the racetrack as well.

So, you guys all know how Tony is.  I mean, he’s just one of those people that he’s worried about everybody else more than he is himself.  And I think this is a decision that he obviously feels comfortable with and seems to be excited about moving forward with his life in general.  And that’s really the most important thing, is that he’s happy in his life and for us to see a smile on his face is the most important thing.

Given your relationship with Rodney, if you two weren’t so close, I mean almost like brothers, would it have made the last two weeks a little more difficult?  And do you just almost have unreal confidence in the fact that the two of you, and as a team, will be able to pull together and ride this thing out?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Oh, yeah.  I think this all goes back to a lot of the conversations that Rodney and I had together before he ever even stepped foot into the Stewart‑Haas Racing shop.  We made a deal and that was, I gave all the information and was a part of the team and process and when it came to times that were tough, whether it be with the race car on the track, he would support me and I would support him.

So, those are, those guys on our team, it’s a really, really tight knit bunch of guys and we’re all going to support each other, because we’re all going to make mistakes in different situations and I don’t think we have necessarily made a mistake, but I think we have definitely had to react to some situations throughout the last couple years and I think it’s made us stronger as we move forward and better from on a weekly basis as a team.  So, it’s just part of what we do.  And I think when you look at the performance of the race cars on the racetrack is really, it’s absolutely unbelievable.  I mean, I’m just lucky to drive the cars and to let certain situations affect something like that would be absolutely crazy on any of our parts.  So we battle through situations and we try to make the best out of every moment and whether it’s practice, qualifying, or the race and have the utmost confidence in each other and it’s really, we really haven’t even talked about it, other than maybe a couple texts here and there of things that they had talked about and done and we moved on from our competition meeting and immediately started talking about Dover and what we needed to do.  So it’s like internally with Greg and Rodney and the engineers in the shop, we’ll talk through the situation and we’ll talk about Dover next week, because that’s just, that’s really what we do on a week to week basis.  But definitely having a good relationship with each other is important and I think has really been a positive for us as we move through the last couple years.

From what you’ve said about the pressure that you guys face it’s basically what you’re saying is it’s hard to try harder.  But do you expect anything different from other guys that are in The Chase and how about the other drivers?  Do you expect any kind of different track activity out of them with your situation?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, I would, if I were in their shoes you would do everything that you could to win the race, finish in front of or whatever the circumstances are to try to keep us from winning, for sure, just for the fact that I think that makes for a better case for the championship and results as you move forward.  So it’s definitely a little bit of a game, I guess you could say, just for I think for sure just for the fact that everybody’s trying to better their position, whether it be in points or just in scenario as you move on to the next round, so I definitely think that everybody is going to do everything they can to try to win the race, just as they would every week.  So it’s definitely an interesting situation for sure.

As far as the pressure goes, do you think you guys just seem to handle it better than the rest of us mortals?

KEVIN HARVICK:  We sure talk about it a lot less; I know that’s for sure.  For us it’s really just another week and obviously the circumstances and what’s on the line is different than what would be on the line in the first 26 weeks, but it really doesn’t change our approach and I have talked about this a little bit in other places this morning, but I think as you look at the things that we have been through as a team over the past couple years, we have been in a lot of pretty intense situations, but for me personally, I think that these things are kind of a, they’re kind of a walk in the park compared to the Earnhardt situations of taking over his car and having to deal with that and all the things that we dealt with back in 2001.  It kind of makes these scenarios a little bit easier to deal with because you’ve dealt with things that are on a much bigger scale than the current things of just performing on the racetrack.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 1 2015
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