NASCAR Phoenix post-race press conference

Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick


THE MODERATOR: We're going to hear from our race winner. Our race winner is Kevin Harvick, and he drives the No. 4 Jimmy John's Chevrolet for Stewartâ€'Haas Racing. Kevin, eight wins here at Phoenix International Raceway. You're the allâ€'time leader in the Sprint Cup Series at this racetrack, 32 career wins. Won five out of six here at Phoenix, and that margin of victory, 0.010 is the closest in the history of this racetrack, tied for seventh closest in the history of the Sprint Cup Series since the advent of electronic storing.

KEVIN HARVICK: I've got a couple in that category.

THE MODERATOR: Yes, you do. Talk about this win and everything that went into the last few laps, the strategy, what you're thinking, of course what Rodney is thinking, and then of course how you raced there at the end.

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I guess we can start with the end. I had no idea that the cars behind me had two tires. I never asked. I just figured I was going to be on defense regardless just for the fact that â€'â€' I don't even know who was third, but everybody wants to win a race, especially these corners where you have the highâ€'braking situations, you're pretty vulnerable. I probably went a little bit too much on defense just for the fact that if I got hit, I wanted to be able to drive out of the slide instead of wind up with the fuel cell into the wall.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]I made it â€'â€' I think the theory was after talking to Rodney, was definitely to stay in control of the race because the restarts can get a little bit hectic as you get into Turn 1.

I got a good restart, got through 1 and 2 good, got through 3 and 4 fairly well, and they told me that the 19 was back there. I thought I could beat him through 1 and 2 on the last lap there, but I knew I was going to have to be on defense because he beat me through the center of 3 and 4 all day.

I was fully expecting everything that I got, but I just needed to be able to get knocked up the track far enough to be able to put the throttle back down. Maybe a little bit too defensive. I missed the bottom with the way that the rubber had built up on the racetrack, it just kind of walked up the track and he was able to hold the bottom and able to get to the left rear, and I felt like I got back to the throttle even soon enough to be able to hold him off, but I was kind of a couple feet behind and was able to kind of scrub against his door a little bit to slow him back down, and by the time he'd realized that he was going to be behind, we had carried the momentum by him and we were at the startâ€'finish line.

Fun finish. I think as drivers and as a sport, that's really the benefit â€'â€' one of the benefits of the low downforce package and the tire situation. The tire situation being the biggest thing is so you have those different strategies with the late cautions to where you have two tires, you have no tires, you probably have four tires, I'm sure, to have the comers and goers and the exciting finishes.

That is exactly what we're all looking for, for finishes and strategy as you look at the low downforce and the soft tires.

Q: Carl said that basically he meant to move you but didn't want to hit you hard enough to wreck you. I would assume from your point of view everything was done as it should have been done today?

KEVIN HARVICK: I would have done the same thing, and really after the race that's exactly what we said to each other. That's really what NASCAR racing is all about. You're coming to the checkered flag and he wants to win for his team and I want to win for my team, and there's a lot on the line. It's definitely the way that things should have been done.

I fully expected it going into Turn 3 and would have done the same thing.

Q: You've been down this road with Rodney before on the tire call at Homestead when you won the championship. When the race is on the line, do you totally trust him or do you guys have back and forth on it?

KEVIN HARVICK: I never asked today. And I never asked at Homestead, the year we won the championship. Rodney and I talked about that before we ever ran a race. Unless there's something wrong, I don't have the type of information that he and Dax have sitting up on top of that pit box. Losing control of the race and putting yourself in traffic is a tough spot to be in because we've lost a lot of races. You dominate races, and what happens is the field is just waiting to see what you do. They're going to do the opposite. That's nine times out of ten when you dominate those days, which we have a lot over the past twoâ€'andâ€'aâ€'half years or two years, whatever you want to call it, we've been in a lot of these situations to where we've lost races just because the strategy just doesn't work out. But when you have half the field that's on the lead lap do the opposite of what you do, that's just what they're going to do.

If we pit right there, half the field stays out. We're just in that type of position. I'm glad we're in that position because our cars are fast, and that's the only way they're going to beat us on days like that when it's all going well.

It was just better for us to keep control of the race than it was to put it in somebody else's hand and hope you get a good restart.

Q: Rodney was talking about there were some things, I think he said in practice, in qualifying, and even one time an adjustment in this race where he tried things that have worked for you guys in the past that didn't happen, didn't work this weekend. I wondered as someone who has won here multiple times and in many fashions, in driving this race today with this package and driving the track, did you find that it did things differently than you have experienced?

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, there wasn't much â€'â€' other than the guys on the team, there wasn't much that was the same. I felt like Friday we were okay. I felt like we were pretty good in race trim. I felt like our qualifying runs in practice were pretty good, and we got to qualifying and couldn't even drive it, it was so loose. That happened last week at Las Vegas, as well.

So there's just a different thought process with â€'â€' you take 30 percent of the downforce off the car, things are just going to be different. We haven't been that close to really anything that we've run. Winning this race is going to allow us to really start to hone in on characteristics, different things that â€'â€' because it's going to be different. We have a new race engineer that we also have to add into that mix with Dax, who's done a great job, but he was out at Atlanta. That's one race that he didn't even â€'â€' he was sick. Last week I was useless, just didn't really even want to make a lap in the car, let alone race the car.

So we've had a couple of â€'â€' Speedweeks was fine, but I think as you look at the last two weeks, everything has just felt out of sync. There's so much different. We've had pieces missing. We got our jack man back today. He was out with surgery. I felt like the pit stops were great today. So there's just been a lot of things that have happened that we've just felt clunky to me, just not anything in our control, just because of circumstances.

But I think that's the great part about our team is we're able to overcome things like that. We've still been competitive every week, but it hasn't been like today. We didn't qualify well. But we've qualified 12th, 18th, 16th, 17th, whatever it's been. We're either on the pole or we're in that neck of the woods when it comes to qualifying. It's just a hard place to qualify and get it all right.

We've had a lot of circumstances that we've had to overcome, so winning today is really going to allow us to really hone in on what are the characteristics of the mileâ€'andâ€'aâ€'half tracks, what are the characteristics of the flat tracks, allowing Dax to get up to speed and really understand all the tools that are different from everything that you had at Michael Waltrip Racing for the last however many years.

There's just a lot of things that we still have to work through, and our team has had to overcome some different things, but every team has to do the same thing because I don't feel like anybody knows exactly where we need to be. It's a totally different mentality in practice right now. It's not about how fast you go, it's really about how long can you go fast and really working with that graph and trying to get the falloff in the car to stay where it needs to be.

It reminds me of where we were 12, 15 years ago when we would practice. It wasn't who was the fastest, it was who could go fastest the longest.

Q: Carl was barely ahead of you in that last stretch. Did the side to side, the last sideâ€'toâ€'side contact ultimately make the difference in you having the margin?

KEVIN HARVICK: I felt like coming off of Turn 4 I had some momentum but I needed to do everything I could to try to scrub some momentum off of his car, and it just worked out timing, and I needed to get away, and by the time he realized that I had that momentum and he tried to do the same thing, scrub the momentum off my car, we were too far towards the startâ€'finish line. It all worked out. Sometimes I can tell you that you plan it all that way, but sometimes you're just lucky as hell.

Q: With this Chase format and knowing that a win can pretty much vault you into the playoffs, do you have any idea how much contact you'll have from â€'â€' knowing how Carl Edwards races, are you thinking, okay, he's going to be rough but not dirty, or do you have no idea? And then secondly, if the positions are reversed in a few weeks, does the way he raced you today impact the way you race him?

KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think there's any real love lost between the two of us. You know, I knew that I was going to get hit, and I'm going to hit him in the same type of manner, just for the fact that I don't want to spin him out, but you definitely want to rough him up because that's not the guy that I want to lose to, and I know he doesn't want to lose to me.

Q: When did you realize you'd won the race? And also, do you feel like you have a psychological advantage over guys at this track now heading into the race?

KEVIN HARVICK: I thought I'd beat him to the startâ€'finish line with where I thought I was. But sometimes our brains don't work exactly like they should inside the race car, and you don't really realize where you are or what you're doing.

But as far as the other guys, I mean, I don't really know. I fully expect to come here and beat them. I know that you leave here and you don't win, you're disappointed. We had the rain situation last time, and we were all fairly distraught over the situation and not winning the race. It's a pressured situation that when you come here, your team and your guys and yourself, you expect to be in contention to win the race, but sometimes circumstances dictate exactly what happens at the end of the race.

In the end, it's been a really good racetrack for us, and we'll just keep riding the wave.

Q: Can you talk about the endurance out there today? A lot of guys were wiped out. And I talked to Austin, he said they were exhausted after the race. You didn't have any of that?

KEVIN HARVICK: I never even â€'â€' my feet never even got hot. I have a beer stench to me, but I don't know that there's much sweat there.

But I think a lot of that is a credit to the race team. I think as you look at the precautions that our guys take, half a pound or three tenths of a pound is not something that they're going to leave a foot box shield or something out because it's March. We're going to be overâ€'cautious on keeping the inside of the car cool, and they've really been conscious of that just for the fact that I hadn't been feeling well the last two weeks.

They came here with what we normally wouldn't have, with an airâ€'conditioner in the car and the foot box completely insulated and those types of things, just based upon how I felt last week. I felt good, though. We're going to drive four hours to Vegas and spend the night.

Q: Rodney said next week at Auto Club, he wasn't really sure what to expect yet. He says you guys have some work to do on the setups and you're taking the car you won with at Dover next weekend. How do you feel about going to Auto Club?

KEVIN HARVICK: I have no idea what car they're taking. I never ask them what they're putting in for a setup. I know that I'm going to be on the top seam throwing dust when practice starts. I think as you look at that particular race, that's been one of our best races over the years, and I think every driver in the garage is looking forward to racing this particular package at California because it's going to be â€'â€' there's been a lot of chatter about it. You can race on the top. You can race on the bottom. And I think it's going to be pretty exciting.

I know all the drivers seem to be really excited about it. I know I'm excited about it and really looking forward to what happens because the cars are going to be out of control, which is exactly what we're looking for.

THE MODERATOR: Kevin, congratulations. It was a great race out here today. Best of luck at Auto Club.



THE MODERATOR: We're going to hear from our winning crew chief and car owner of the No. 4 Jimmy John's Chevrolet, and what a finish we had here at Phoenix International Raceway. The margin of victory .010, closest margin of victory in the history of this racetrack, and certainly it ties the margin of victory that we saw in our season opener at Daytona. The first four races of the season we've had two margins of victory .010. Gene, I'm going to ask you first, what was your â€'â€' how was your heart beating there that last restart?

GENE HAAS: Well, when the caution came out, it just happens this way so many times, a few laps to go, the caution comes out, and it seems like we always come up on the short end of it. You know, you have to give Rodney a lot of kudos there. He has a plan and he stuck with it, and this time it worked. I think Kevin did a great job slowing Edwards down. It made for a great finish is what it's all about, and that was a great finish.

THE MODERATOR: Rodney, certainly that last call on the pit stop or on the last call not to go to pit road, I believe you and the 88 might have been the only cars that didn't do that. Talk about your mindset, your strategy on doing that and why you made that call?

RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, when it's that situation, you always wonder what the right thing to do is, and every race we've won here as the 4 team, that caution has come out late and we've ended up staying out and been able to be okay.

Our last adjustments on our last stop just ended up getting it going the way it needed to do, and finally hit it right. I knew that he had kind of been riding and saving his stuff and thought we'd be okay, but every time there's always seven or eight that stay out in that situation, and when there was only three, that turned into a little bit of a panic mode for me.

You know, I thought we would be okay, and then after that first lap, I'm like, this is going to be close. Just thankful of the job that Kevin does. It's really a pleasure for us to come here and to work with him. There's a lot of hardâ€'working people back at Stewartâ€'Haas that put everything into this race. It's one of those deals where you have to focus on the places that you're good at, and we put everything that we had into it to try to come out here and win the race.

Q: How much thinking do you do about what decision to make, or is it just kind of automatic, because you think back to Homestead in 2014, you made a call that was pretty bold and wound up winning you the championship. Is it just kind of a reflexive thing, or do you have to think about it a lot?

RODNEY CHILDERS: Honestly you think about it every lap. As you're running along there, you â€'â€' probably every two laps you look up, you see how many laps are on the tires, you look at how you're running compared to your competitors.

So about every two to three laps in your head, you say, what if the caution come out now, what if the caution come out now, and I used to always look over at my engineers and ask that question, and we would all kind of say, well, I think we should do this.

Honestly, about, I don't know, four years ago, I finally figured out that was the wrong thing to do. You've got to go with your gut. You don't ask anybody anything, you've got to do what you think is right. It's my butt if it's wrong, and I want to be responsible.

It was way too close today. That shouldn't have happened. But all in all, we ended up winning the race, which is good.

You know, it just happened to work out. It wasn't the right thing to do.

Q: You guys were strong in the first half of the race but you didn't lead. Were you kind of where you wanted to be then or did you have some pretty big adjustments in the second half?

RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, we made our first adjustment, and the car drove better, but it wasn't any faster. And then our next adjustment was just bad. It didn't do what we thought it would do. We just weren't very good, and we had to back up on that adjustment and then kind of see where our balance was and then constantly work on it the whole time.

But the very last stop we had was â€'â€' we made some good adjustments, and he told me in victory lane, it was pretty awesome that last run.

You know, it's one of those things, you don't know what's right. You've got a new package and you've got new tires, and the thing that we did halfway through the race that was bad was something we've always done here to help make the car turn, and it did just the opposite.

You have to just weed yourself through it the whole race and figure out what's best.

Q: Rodney, am I kind of wrong to think that Kevin Harvick is so good here that he wins races in ways that nobody should really win races in the sense of that somebody with two tires, fourth should really beat somebody who's leading the race with two to go?

RODNEY CHILDERS: Just depends. The tires, they did a really good job with the tires, but the tires still need to be softer. There's no reason our car should be able to stay out there at the end of the race and win.

You know, they're learning just like we're learning, and we're going to keep making them softer and softer, I hope, and keep making it better and better.

You know, the whole deal is just getting your car where it drives good. The 19 guys did a really good job the whole weekend. I felt like they had a good car, and Dave and Carl did a good job during the race. Their pit crew did an awesome job. They did everything right. When they go home tonight, they're going to feel good about what they've done.

And the same thing goes with us. We felt like we had one of the smoothest Fridays we had ever had here, and then we turned around and qualified 18th. You just don't ever know. We've got some learning to do, and we've still got to figure some things out.

Q: Picking your way to the front the way you did, do you feel like this was one of the cleanest races that you've had since Daytona, and does that help change the momentum?

RODNEY CHILDERS: I think so. You know, we just really haven't had some things go our way. Atlanta we had an incredible car that whole day, and the bad thing about it is our car wouldn't keep tires on it for that long. I knew if I pitted when the 48 did, we were going to be on cords and we were going to get beat anyway. It finally just came down to a situation where we were going to get beat, and there was no way around it.

And then once you lose control of the race and have to restart in the wrong line there, you're done. That one didn't go our way.

And then last week, I don't know, we were okay in the race, and there was times in the race where we were faster than everybody, but it still wasn't 4 car fashion. We've got to get better and got to take better cars to the racetracks and get better setups in them. So we're working hard to do that.

Q: Just wondering, we had a lot of tire issues happen throughout the day. Was that a concern on that final run for you, and were you all having any issues with that?

RODNEY CHILDERS: We didn't have any issues. In all honesty that's been going on here for the last few years. I can remember all the way back maybe two, three years ago when Earnhardt Jr. had a right rear bead melt, so every time we come here we just try to keep a bunch of air blowing on that right rear as much as we can to take care of it, but we took one set of tires off and I think the wheel was about 315 degrees when we took it off. Part of it's the learning curve, I think. It's nobody's fault. It's not Goodyear's fault for sure. They brought a good tire. It's just the teams have got to learn more about that stuff and using more brake and all that.

I thought it was good. You've just got to be smart and take care of your stuff.

Q: The last lap, the last couple of hundred feet here, were you holding your breath? What were you thinking? How quickly when the checkered flag flew did you know that the win was yours?

RODNEY CHILDERS: It was a while it seemed like, pretty much from the dogleg all the way back to the startâ€'finish line, I don't think I was breathing at all. I don't think my heart was beating, either.

You know, they crossed the line, and I felt like we won, and then I looked up at the monitor and it said we won, but then they were waiting to look at the camera, and I'm like, you just hold your breath and hope it's the best.

Q: Second last year at Auto Club Speedway, how do you feel about going into next weekend after the win today and the new aero package?

RODNEY CHILDERS: I feel pretty good about it. I don't feel like it's probably the best car we have, but it's the car we won at Dover with in the fall, and we ran third at Texas with a driver with one hand for 150 laps. I think we'll be okay. I really don't know. I think we have to work on our setups better. I don't feel like our platform was near controlled good enough at Vegas. It seemed to me that the 48 had it figured out better than anybody at that particular racetrack, and we've just got to figure some things out this week and hopefully have a good car next weekend.

Q: When you took the wheel off and it was 315 degrees, was that the stop, I guess it would have been your secondâ€'toâ€'last stop because you told Kevin you had issues with I believe the right rear? Was that the same stop?

RODNEY CHILDERS: I don't think it was â€'â€' no, no. We had a pit stop deal early in the race. I think a gun shut off or he didn't get a lug nut off or something like that early in the race.

Q: And Gene, before the race, I asked you whether or not the change to Ford, if you noticed any change in performance and you said we haven't won yet. You've won, so do you think your team is where it needs to be right now?

GENE HAAS: Well, Chevrolet is a winning brand. It's won for us in the past, and we're going to win as many races as we possibly can this season. I think that all in all that we'll have a good season. I think the transition is not really going to have any effect on what we do this year.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to Rodney and Gene on this win here today, and best of luck out at Fontana.

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