Teleconference: Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Hershey's Milk Chocolate Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, was this week's guest on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference as he prepares for this weekend's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Q: Kevin, given that you were a big winner here in Chicago if you could just move a week ahead for us. Talk about what this track in Chicago means to you and it looks like as you look at where the winners have started from, it's kind of a wide open kind of a race as opposed to needing to start near the top. Can you address those two topics?

KEVIN HARVICK: Obviously Chicago has been really good to us. We have won a couple races there. Had a lot of success there. A lot of it goes back to the very first test that RCR had before the first test a great test and applied a lot of that stuff over the next couple of years and had been able to handle a lot of success there.

So starting position is, you know, probably not as important at a lot of places as a lot of people make it out to be. Helps for pit selection and things like that. It never hurts to qualify good but I think you can -- the races are long enough to where you can win from anywhere.

Q: Is that a track, too, that's wearing thin? I remember one of your races you went through the grass much to Jeff Gordon's consternation to get around him. Are those days over in terms of being able to pass?

KEVIN HARVICK: I didn't go through the grass on purpose. I spun out and the grass is way away from the racetrack there, so it's not something that you can drive through, but yeah, I did spin out and actually probably won the race for us we were able to pit and the caution came out a few laps later, everybody else had to pit. We were able to stay out. So probably won us the race that year.

Q: Your truck Series. It seems that after the team made the crew chief change they have been winning races, starting up front, winning poles for you. Looking back now, was it a little too soon to put Chris Rice as crew chief and would you have made that switch a little sooner knowing what you know now?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well I don't think you ever know how the chemistry of things are going to work. It's something to where I think there was a lot of different scenarios that were involved in everything that was going on with the team and basically we just stopped and just decided to evaluate everything and pretty much start over. So we were fortunate enough to have a boss in Richard, was able to help us and let us use his 7 post and help get us pointed in the right direction. They have done a great job but I don't think we probably be where we are without RCR.

Q: What is your future plans for that team as far as keeping the driver and team together?

KEVIN HARVICK: We have another year with Ron under his contract right now. We're just kind of evaluating whether we're going to run Busch cars or we don't have a sponsor on the trucks, so we won't run a truck next year if it doesn't have a full-time sponsor.

Q: You certainly made the end of the Busch race at Milwaukee exciting. But do you like it when people, drivers like Paul said it was unsettling to see you in the rearview mirror.

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, it was -- I mean, first of all, it was awesome to see Paul win. He did exactly what he had to do to win the race. I just kind of got punted from behind there in the end, but I don't know, I mean it was lot of fun. Sometimes you come out on the good side of that stuff and sometimes you come out on the bad side of it, and this week we happen to come out on the wrong end. But I think it's great for the Busch Series and for the sport to have Paul win the race and have two Busch regular guys win the race two weeks in a row. It was exciting and you know, just didn't work out our way.

Q: What happened at the end? I know you had discussion with NASCAR and I know that -- when you are there it's always exciting, certainly you helped make the end of the race exciting but what happened at the end?

KEVIN HARVICK: The end of the race or after the race?

Q: After?

KEVIN HARVICK: Oh, I got -- they called me up in the trailer just wanting to know -- it probably didn't come off very good - but I was happy for Paul. I wasn't really mad at Paul at all. Heck, he didn't spin me at all. The 18 spun me out. That's what caused the big wreck at the end. They just wanted to know what was going on, nothing major.

Q: Have you noticed any difference in the way Jimmy Johnson is driving the plate race this year and do you have any thoughts on why he's kind have been able to turn it around at Daytona, Talladega this year?

KEVIN HARVICK: Not really. I haven't really paid attention to him, tell you the truth.

Q: Seems like he's been able to be a lot more patient? He almost drives Daytona and Talladega the way he drives Charlotte playing it real careful until it's go time near the end?

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I haven't paid much attention to Jimmy Johnson.

Q: Kevin, question about points right now. You are involved in it, pretty tight points battle right now. Do you see yourself as being in a good position with the tracks coming up because as we saw Jeff Gordon bounced up three places, you could easily go up 3 or down 3 in the next month or so?

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I think obviously we have kind of put ourselves in that position. I think if the performance, you know, should stay where it's at and things should keep going good. It's just a matter of not making any mistakes, so you know, it's really I feel like we should be fourth or fifth in the points and -- but that's not the way it is. So I mean it's just going to boil down to who doesn't make any mistakes. I don't think there's, you know, anybody around us that can beat us week in and week out. I think it's just all -- like I said it all going to boil down to mistakes.

Q: Other question about today's announcement in part with the car of tomorrow now spec engine composite body. Are the cars, the series maybe starting to lose more and more of their -- their individualality, more of its identity?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I don't think so. I think -- I think when everybody really gets done with the car tomorrow I think the manufacturers are going to be happy. I think NASCAR is going to be happy. I think everybody is probably going to be a little bit surprised, you know, the look that the car takes. So I think it's going to be -- I think with the wing and stuff on the back I think a lot of the aero push stuff it's never going to go away but I think it's going to be a lot better.

The safety aspect of the car tomorrow is the best thing about the whole car, so there's just a lot more room inside the car. But I think that you know, the composite bodies would be a bad idea for a Cup and for Busch, but I think for the Grand National east and west cars, I don't think there's anything that you can do any better. I think as -- I think it was Schrader (phonetic) he said, you can knock the hell out of this thing and just wipe a few smudges off of it, go back the next week and race it next week, so you don't have to come home and put sides on it and spend five or six thousand repairing your car. You can just wipe it off and keep going.

Q: Jim, can you explain why the minimum age is changing? Kevin, as an owner, as you look maybe for younger talent, how does this going to affect what you do and would it be a case of looking at putting somebody in the series as opposed to somebody like the Hooters Pro Cup or something like that?

JIM HUNTER: I think the biggest reason we're reducing the age restriction is the fact that so many teams in the national divisions are looking for young drivers and it seems like the age gets lower and lower every year. They have to have somewhere to race and they are going to race somewhere. And we feel like the -- with the changed -- going to the spec motor and going to the composite body, and running a majority of the races on sort tracks, meaning a half mile or less, and not running these cars on super speedways, we felt it was -- the timing was right to do this and we'll see how it works.

KEVIN HARVICK: I think from an owner's standpoint, you know, if I am an owner and I want to develop a guy, I'd much rather have him at the racetrack you know, if he's 18, I'd rather have him at the racetrack where I am at so I can watch. If you lower the age to 16 he can't race in the truck, can't race in the Busch, can't race in the Cup, that gives you a place that you can go develop somebody that's younger than 18, so that you can, you know, you can bring him up in an environment where there's not so much pressure. You don't have to bring him to the Busch races or the truck races where there's so much competition there. You take a chance of missing a race. So I think it's definitely something that now that the age is lower we'll definitely probably participate in.

Q: Kevin, can you also address the fact that I think what we're looking at is we're kind of having a bid for drivers among the Nextel Cup Series certainly your name was mentioned earlier in the year, won't be -- the ability to bring these guys in and bring them up earlier cut some of the costs from an owner's standpoint in developing talent in which you will have to pay for salaries in the future?

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I would say last year, you know, we did probably a five or six hundred thousand dollar driver development program with Bernie Lamar just running 6 or 7 races. Now, you can probably run the whole year off of that with the composite bodies and the new rules and things like that. The drivers shortage is, I mean, there's definitely a shortage of capable drivers to drive in the Cup Series and I think right now it's driving the prices through the roof it seems like, and it's -- it's putting the owners in a little bit of an awkward position. But I mean, it's just that time in the sport where everything is kind of going through a transition where a lot of guys -- some of the guys are retired and there's not enough -- there's more good cars than there are good drivers. I think -- it's definitely going to give you a place to develop people at a lot lower cost.

Q: Also as far as making The Chase this year, you are teetering right there. Where are the areas that the 29 car has to pick up so that you will know you will be there?

KEVIN HARVICK: The 29 car doesn't have to pick up. It is just we all have to quit making mistakes. The car runs fast every week, and we just flat out have to quit making mistakes all around.

Q: Kevin, as a Busch owner and Cup driver, having raced against the Cup guys in Busch, is this helping him or hurting him?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I don't think it can ever hurt. I think it's something to where, you know, where you need to be and everybody's goal is to race Cup cars and I think in order to get to that point, I mean you can ruin your career in a heart beat going to Cup not being ready to come to Cup and you know, never be seen again. Casey (sic) (inaudible) A huge example of coming to Cup and probably not being ready or not being in the right position or whatever the case may have been, but it will ruin your name forever if you are not ready. I always tell people if you can't win races in the division that you are racing in, then you probably don't need to go to the next one.

Q: You're comfortable with him racing against that level of competition as an owner?

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I think if he can't race against those guys I need to find somebody else because I mean, those are the guys you are going to have to race in week in and week out.

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