NASCAR Phoenix Sunday Press Conference

Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
Gregg Ellman/HHP/GM

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 4 JIMMY JOHN'S/BUDWEISER CHEVROLET SS,

RODNEY CHILDERS, CREW CHIEF, AND GENE HAAS, TEAM OWNER

RACE WINNER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

THE MODERATOR: Continuing with our postâ€'race media availability, we've been joined by Gene Haas and Rodney Childers. Rodney, another incredible run by the team and Kevin today. You become the first team as repeat winners again in 2015. Talk a little bit about the dominating performance today.

RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, I mean, it was a good weekend for us, for sure. Everybody did a great job all weekend. I know it didn't seem this way, but we actually struggled a little bit. Fault some of our tools and different things that weren't matching up with the car this weekend. Finally we had to kind of wing it late model style. Finally got it going really good in Happy Hour. The guys at the shop have built great cars. You know, everything just went our way all weekend. You come to these deals, and some weekends it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't whether you got a fast car or not. Just proud of all the guys back at the shop that have worked so hard, and of course Kevin. I think his record speaks for itself at this place. I said a minute ago, somebody asked me what was wrong with me this morning. I said that I felt more pressure to win this one race at Phoenix than I did to win the race at Homestead. When you bring him here, I think everybody expects him to win. I didn't want it to be my fault if we didn't. Just proud of everybody, like I said. Just a great effort.

THE MODERATOR: And, Gene, another dominating performance by the 4 team. Talk a little bit about that team, their momentum.

GENE HAAS: Well, I think they make it look easy, but at the same time there's lots of preparation. You have to get the right people in the right places. We have an awful lot of support from Hendrick and Chevrolet, all of our sponsors.

I think when you see Kevin and Rodney out there making it look easy, it really isn't easy. Lots of competition. They're all very, very good. When it works well, I think it's just an indication of a tremendous amount of preparation on the part of the team and the support we get from all of our members and associates.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Gene or Rodney.

Rodney, was there any decision at all to make on that last caution as to whether to get tires or not?

RODNEY CHILDERS: That was the one I thought about all night last night. I knew it was going to happen. Here in the fall, the same type deal happened. We stayed out. It seemed like the car would fire off pretty good there and run some good lap times. It seemed to do that again. Even when we were leading, when he could clear some traffic, it would come back to him pretty good. You always worry. Actually, when Kurt wound up 10th on the restart, I thought to myself that if there's enough cautions, he'll be the one to beat. But we were fortunate that we were able to get some good restarts, get out front, kind of put some distance on some guys. We were just fortunate that it worked out.

Rodney, you talk about feeling the pressure because Kevin runs so well here; you want to make sure you do everything. Are there tracks where you expect to do well as a crew chief because it fits your style?

RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, probably if you look through all my years, probably the two best places for me were always Bristol and Charlotte. Didn't win a lot of races at either one of them, but with Reutimann, I think we finished in the top five every time we went to Bristol. When Brian got in the car, we finished in the top five four races straight. Those were my two favorite places.

Raced at Bristol growing up, enjoyed it, understood the racetrack, understood what it took to be good there. Racing behind Charlotte once a month, whatever, racing on the front straightaway in Legend cars, when you do that, it means a lot to you. Just like coming out here for Kevin, when it's your background and something that helped you get to this point, you know, you want to win at those places. I put enough pressure on myself I think every weekend, but it definitely seemed to get me more this week.

Beginning of the race, something I hadn't seen at Phoenix in a while: Kevin Harvick being challenged. Was Kevin saying anything on the radio, like what to do, anything he needed to adjust?

RODNEY CHILDERS: I think that was my fault. I decided a month ago we weren't going to bring a transmission here that we could shift with. There wasn't going to be an option. We hauled off into one the first lap of the race, and all them guys downshifted and we didn't, there we go. We had to figure it out from there. Just a poor decision on my part. But, you know, hopefully we can fix that before we come back and do a little better job.

You talked about the pressure of coming into this event because of his history here and everything. Next week you go to his home. Does the pressure stay up there or does it increase or does it go down because you won here?

RODNEY CHILDERS: I think at this point everybody just expects you to keep winning. That's what makes it hard on all of us. Yeah, I feel like we've got a team that can do that. We have a driver that can do that. We have the resources to do that. The more you win, the more you expect out of yourself and the more pressure you put on yourself.

When we left Vegas last week, he made a point to say, I want to win all three of these West Coast races. I think anybody that knows Kevin Harvick, if he puts his head to something, he's going to try to make it happen. Just like we talked about a minute ago, these races mean a lot to him. He grew up around here, has a lot of family around here. That's our goal, for sure.

Gene, you had Kyle [sic] back today. What did that mean to you and the team personally? Do you have any doubts that he'll win soon as well?

GENE HAAS: It's Kurt, not Kyle. Yeah, I think it was great having Kurt back. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, because now we know what to expect. In previous months it was just nothing but question marks. What are you going to do? How is this going to unfold? The only answer, you could say, We have no idea, we can't control any of this. We were as much in suspense as anybody.

But that fueled I think all the speculation and the media frenzy which piled on and made it quite a bit worse for us because we were just at the timing of NASCAR, the police department out of Delaware. I think those things just put a tremendous amount of pressure.

So here we are a week later after we've been reinstated by NASCAR. We appreciate what NASCAR did. I think they did the right thing. I was a little bit stunned I think by the fact that Kurt was pulled out several days before Daytona, which just seemed so incredulous to me. Two days before the Daytona 500, to do that to a driver, just didn't seem right.

But the way things unfolded, you know, it worked out. We didn't really lose too much time. Kurt now is back in the car. I think he's razor focused. He appreciates that driving at this level is a privilege. It certainly isn't anything he has a right to or any of us have a right to. It can go away. It can go away just as fast as a car can go away in a race. He has a great appreciation for that.

I think as a team, we appreciate that it's a very tenuous relationship when you have these superstars in front of the media, if there's any kind of negativity, how bad it can go.

I have to admit in the last week or so, it seems like things have reversed. I think Kurt has a much more focused attitude. Now he can get back to business.

I think he's really dedicated himself to winning a championship. So hopefully in the long run, when we look back on this we'll look at it as a bump in the road on the way to winning another championship.

Gene, you promised Kurt that his ride would be waiting for him. What did that mean to him? Secondly, since we really didn't get a good explanation, can you tell us what happened to Tony out there.

GENE HAAS: With Kurt, there were no guarantees. We were like you. We didn't know what was going to happen. NASCAR made statements about what they were going to do. NASCAR I think has a higher respect as a media company to do what they felt was best. So we didn't exactly know what they were going to do. It was going to be based on what the other parties did.

In that respect, there was nothing that we really planned as far as, Was Kurt going to come back or not? That was just something we didn't have any control over.

If things would have gone the other way, it would have been a completely different scenario. But fortunately we're happy we're back at racing. Next week there will be other stories to focus on than this.

Tony is a champion. He's used to driving 800 horsepower alcohol Sprint cars in mud, snail snot and whatever else is out there. He has a tremendous amount of talent to adapting to things quickly. I think it's just a little bit of time it will take him to adapt to this reduction of horsepower, which is probably something he doesn't like. That's kind of speculation.

I think great drivers want as much horsepower as you can get. That's part of the thrill, is to be able to take these machines with 900 horsepower and get them to slide around these turns at speed.

When you take that away, I guess the hope is that we have better racing. I think the drivers at the top end of this sport, you know, probably think that that makes it a different kind of car to drive, it doesn't take nearly as much pedal skills.

I think Tony will be back. He's a very adaptable driver. He didn't get to this level by chance. Tremendous amount of skills. I think it just takes a little bit of time.

THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by our race winner, Kevin Harvick. This is Kevin's second victory of 2015, his seventh victory and 14th topâ€'10 finish in 25 races at Phoenix International Raceway. Harvick is the first driver to win four straight races at a single racetrack since Jimmie Johnson did four straight at Charlotte in 2004 and 2005. Harvick is the first driver to finish in the top two seven consecutive times since NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty did in 1975.

So, Kevin, another impressive win by your team. Talk a little bit about the momentum and coming to Phoenix and winning not only two in a row but then also four here at this track.

KEVIN HARVICK: When you said the Richard Petty part, that gives me chills. I'm just really proud of everybody at Stewartâ€'Haas for everything they do. Really proud of Rodney and these guys on this team. I feel like we get better as we go through different situations. You see these guys hang out together, how mellow everybody is, how everybody gets along. It's really, really special to be a part of. Really happy to be a small piece of what's going on. Really proud of everybody at Stewartâ€'Haas and everybody on our No. 4 team.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it back up for questions.

Obviously this was an amazing win today. You didn't look like anybody could come even close to you. Was there any moment in time when you thought anybody could come close to you?

KEVIN HARVICK: Those restarts were a little bit nerveâ€'wracking because yesterday I learned as the racetrack got rubbered up, the restarts were going to be sketchy to say the least because the fact for the cars were going to slide around, they weren't going to do anything correctly. Didn't matter where you were on the racetrack, when you got to the exit of the center of the corner, you needed to have your car pointed in the right direction so you could get as much throttle down.

Saturday helped me understand some things that were going on with the racetrack, things you needed to concentrate on. We went to the hockey game last night as a team. Rodney and I talked about everything we went through yesterday. These guys made some good decisions based upon that information and the stuff that we fought in practice.

That's what it comes down to, the communication between the group, taking in all the information that you have. These guys just make good decisions based on the information we have on a weekâ€'toâ€'week basis going into the race. I'm just lucky to be the guy riding it.

How much pressure is your crew chief under to make sure that you complete three in a row?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I don't know. Do you ever feel like you're under pressure?

RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]KEVIN HARVICK: Okay. I guess when he's under pressure, his pulse might be 55. He's on the verge of being dead when he's happy and riding along. That's just one of the great things about everything that we have going on. He's on that end of the spectrum with calm and collective. When he gets wound up, he gets even quieter. For me, I get wound up and tend to just get more wound up.

It's a great balance between the two of us because of the fact you can find that middle road and balance. Balance is the thing you hear me talk about. I know y'all are probably getting tired of hearing me talk about it. There's a balance with your personal life. There's a balance with the job, what you do. But there's also a balance within your team, the things that you do, how everybody works together.

Just finding that balance has worked out. They've done a great job of putting those people in the right places, and it's just working.

When did you plan to do the backwards lap?

KEVIN HARVICK: You know, that's always something that I tell myself that I want to do because I know what this place was to Alan and everything that they accomplished here. I know there's a lot of these race fans that were here and saw the Polish Victory Lap and the way he celebrated. I thought it would be cool to finally do a complete one, to go around to all the fans and into that victory lap.

That was just a moment I probably should have done a long time ago. My memory gets really short when things start happening. Finally today I was able to remember to do that.

Really the thing that triggered it was Mark Martin complaining about everybody doing burnouts on Twitter. Today I figured I'd give him something else to watch. Hopefully he liked that.

Kevin, if you run bad, it tends to stick with you a little while. If you win, how quickly do you forget about, I won last week, the week before, and get focused on what's next?

KEVIN HARVICK: I think for confidence, winning is something that ultimately makes the confidence level in myself and Rodney and everybody on this team know that you can make things happen in many different types of situations.

I think as you go to the next race, you go to California, it's nothing like what we've done here, nothing really like what we did at California. You just have to forget about what you did.

These guys are really good at just, you know, being happy about what we did last week, not talking about anything other than what we're going to do at California next week, how we prepare for that, not taking your eye off the prize, staying focused on what we need to do for California, the past history, the things that have happened there over time.

They'll finish the notes and things tomorrow morning, and the next thing you know they won't open them again until it's six weeks, five weeks before we come back to race here at the end of the year. The California notebook will open, and all of a sudden that will be all we talk about.

(No microphone.)

KEVIN HARVICK: You can ask him. I'll probably critique today more than the days we run bad. There's a lot of things that we could do better, little areas that we can work on. We'll have notes upon notes.

But I won't to approach the post-race report any different than I will a race we run 20th. Will probably have more information today on things we could or couldn't do than on a day we win.

Is that fair to say?

RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah.

In a sport where so many things can go wrong at any given time, do you think it's difficult for people on the outside to appreciate how much goes into days like today, in particular when you do it two weeks in a row?

KEVIN HARVICK: I guess the casual fan would somewhat understand. I think the fan that doesn't really understand our sport really still thinks we work in a threeâ€'car garage, race one car every week, doesn't understand that's your $200 million, $300 million business that functions with 300 people, whatever that given number is at any given company. It's a massive, massive machine.

When you have the undertaking of that many people, being responsible for that much money, there's a lot of things that go on, a lot of moving pieces. This time the year, the travel coordinator and the truck drivers are the most abused people in the sport just because of the fact that they're all over the country, trying to get these guys from Point A to Point B. Financially you want to leave them out here and try to save on travel, still get your cars transferred.

It's a huge machine that just takes massive amounts of people and money to operate and organize and do the things that it takes to do it good.

RODNEY CHILDERS: I think every single competitor in that garage appreciates what we do. Watching us do what we've done the past two weeks, those guys, they appreciate that. They know how much work goes into it.

Yeah, they want to beat us. But all the years of seeing people win races, whether it was me racing against Kevin, seeing Jimmie Johnson win, maybe that's the type of person I am, but you have to appreciate that. Everybody works too hard not to.

You always have to worry about every single person. I had someone ask me last night, Who are you worried about? Well, I'm worried about everybody. That's the way you got to be. You got to keep working on your stuff and keep making it better. If you don't, you're going to get beat.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on another victory. We wish you the best of luck next week.

POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:

JAMIE McMURRAY, NO. 1 CESSNA CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 2ND

KURT BUSCH, NO. 41 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 5TH

THE MODERATOR: We'll roll into our postâ€'race media availability. We have been joined by our secondâ€'place finisher, Jamie McMurray. Jamie, your first top five of the season. Talk a little bit about your run today and being able to come home in second position.

JAMIE McMURRAY: We just had a really good weekend. Every practice our car was quick. We qualified well. Just had, you know, a mistakeâ€'free day and really executed the race perfectly.

The 4 car is on an amazing roll. If I could do my restart over again right now, I would have done something a little different. But it is what it is. I'm really happy with second. It would be nice to be in Victory Lane and know you were locked into the Chase the way the point format works.

As a group, our whole organization, the 1 car team, Matt McCall, really awesome cars. Matt did a great job calling the race. That's hard in your first four or five races to make that decision in the end to stay out on old tires. In hindsight it was the right one.

When you're in the car, you run that many laps, you know how bad the car feels, when he asks me, What do you want to do? I'm like, You're the crew chief. I'm going to do whatever you think is right. He did a great job today.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Jamie.

What would you have done differently on that restart?

JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I had no idea that Kevin had such a bad restart. The tires that Goodyear brought would build a lot of marbles, similar to what we had in the old days. We would scrub them back and forth.

It was really hard on the last two restarts to get any drive. When you would get to the corner, it didn't want to turn and it was loose. No grip. Sliding around a lot.

Honestly, when I went through one and two I felt like I totally missed the corner and I was waiting to hear, Threeâ€'wide, you're in the middle. I heard, Clear. I wish I would have moved up immediately. He had momentum on the outside.

I didn't feel like I was clear. The cars are kind of like what we have at Daytona. When you're clear of someone or when someone gets to your quarter panel, you can feel it bog the car down. I didn't feel like I was clear.

Hindsight, I would have listened to my spotter a little bit and just moved up. I felt like I missed the corner so I didn't have any idea how I could be clear.

When you find yourself in position racing with Kevin there on the restart, the way he's dominated, how good he is here, did you believe you had a shot?

JAMIE McMURRAY: The outside is a big advantage here on the restarts. Lots of momentum you can carry on the outside. He had been really good on the restarts all day long. So honestly I was really concerned about trying to slide in behind him. Let me back up. No, when we drove into turn one, I'm going to go like hell and I hope can I clear him. But the car didn't feel like it had the grip that you needed, and I didn't want to slide up and wipe everybody out.

Did I think I had a chance? Yeah. But you just don't ever know what you're going to get when you get to that end. The lap times didn't fall off that much. The lap times fell off a lot, but it felt like they fell off two or three seconds a lap. The car felt horrible at the end of a run. You didn't know what you would have on a restart because we had been out on those tires quite a while.

On Friday you mentioned what a roll the 4 is on. You said it again today. Whether it be another driver or another professional sports team, can you think of one that has been on a roll like this?

JAMIE McMURRAY: I think we've seen it in other sports. I remember the days when Jeff Gordon won 13 races in a year in '97, '98. I remember watching every week. It was incredible. I think our sport is much tougher now to do that in. We talked about it, the team guys talked about it at the Charlotte test on Wednesday. I remember when the 4 car unloaded at the Charlotte test last year in January, first lap on the track he was literally the fastest car. For a year it's been that way.

Last year they should have won more races. They had issues. Seemed like they'd be the fastest car and something would take them out.

But, yeah, they're on a roll. When I listen to Kevin talk, it seems like there's good communication between he and Rodney and the engineer and the whole team.

You were at Roush when Kurt Busch was there. You were friends with him. What have you thought about what he's gone through the last three weeks? Was there any doubt in your mind he could come right back and be in the top five?

JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, it's kind of hard to say this about Kurt because he's standing right there. Matt Kenseth and I talk about Kurt and his ability in a car and how talented he is. He always has been able, whether it was in the Truck Series, when he moved up to Cup, he always has had a lot of speed.

It didn't shock me at all. Those cars are really quick right now. It didn't shock me at all to see him get in and run as well as he did this weekend.

As far as what he went through, that would be really tough. I think it's a unique situation based on everything that happened in the NFL earlier in the year. I know it's just a touchy subject. I'm glad that he's free of that and doesn't have that on his back anymore and that he can move on.

THE MODERATOR: Jamie, congratulations on a good run. Thank you.

JAMIE McMURRAY: Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Continuing with our postâ€'race media availability, we've now been joined by our fifthâ€'place finisher, Kurt Busch. Kurt, a solid performance on your return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend. Talk a little bit about your run this afternoon.

KURT BUSCH: Thank you. It's great to be back and post a topâ€'five finish in our first effort back. It is a testament to the team, Stewartâ€'Haas, Tony Gibson, the crew chief. It was a pleasure to drive the car today. Lots of emotions, but had to keep those in check and focus on the racecar. There were a few times I was determined enough to overdrive it. Had a chance at the lead at one point racing Kevin sideâ€'byâ€'side. But overall as the race progressed, we got a little bit too loose at the end and I ran out of tools in the car to change on that final restart. I was hoping to have a little bit better grip with the rightâ€'side tires. It just didn't seem like we could grab the racetrack like we needed.

So in hindsight staying out, we didn't quite have a shot to win, but it would have been great to finish 1â€'2 for Stewartâ€'Haas in my return. But top five, we'll take it.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Kurt.

Considering how well you ran today in your first time back with Gibson and the guys, what kind of promise does it show that this team has to be a contender week in and week out?

KURT BUSCH: Well, they're doing their homework. They're doing their job. I haven't been there for them. So it's bittersweet. We started our season today. We got a topâ€'five finish. Now it's on to the next group of races to where we will develop as a team and get stronger and stronger and stronger. If we can have a goal of shadowing Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers, that's the best objective to have right now.

It's a quality effort from Stewartâ€'Haas. They kept everything warm for me. Gene Haas, when I was talking to him, I said, Will the car be there when I get back? He said, It's your seat. When you get back, it's yours.

Kurt, how similar is what you run and Kevin runs? Given Kevin's speed, how much confidence do you have that you might be able to win fairly quickly?

KURT BUSCH: I thought we did a good job to simulate things that he's been doing. You would be stupid not to. I mean, the guy has finished first or second in the last seven races. So we headed his direction. We need to continue to do that. It's still, though, so many little things that add up to make a full, complete winning racecar.

Me and Tony Gibson, the lead engineer Klausmeier, we'll hit the books hard this week, figure out what we can do for Fontana, which should be similar to Homestead, and we'll go from there.

You talked a lot about the brief time you had working with Tony Gibson at the end of last season. Were you concerned at all that somehow whatever spark you had would have been lost in the few weeks you missed at the beginning of the season?

KURT BUSCH: No, I wasn't worried. We really hit it off well last year. To start off this year, I mean, we have that extra emotion within us right now. Everything's on a high of getting back to the car, racing hard, going for the win in our first weekend back together.

Now we'll just settle back in and get in that groove for these next couple weeks. Then there's the Easter off week. Didn't feel like we would miss a beat. I knew I would be a bit behind on restarts. It was chaos the first few. Those guys out there were serving me my lunch the first few restarts, then I started to figure it out.

Kurt, in your opening statement you mentioned all the emotions that you experienced today. Can you talk a little bit about what some of those emotions were and how you're feeling now that the race is over.

KURT BUSCH: The big one was when I was behind Kevin about 60 laps to go. We're running 1â€'2. That's Stewartâ€'Haas' racing objective every week. When you have that sense of pride of running 1â€'2, I knew the race shop was probably going bananas on us running so well. That's the emotional side of it, of working through all the different things I've been through this offâ€'season. Stewartâ€'Haas Racing has been my family.

Kurt, based on your performance today, how confident are you that you and your team can make your Chase off of points alone?

KURT BUSCH: We're not going to think about points. Gene Haas has got me under contract to go win races, and that's what I want to do. We'll see how the points play out. But right now we're here to win some races. First step was to get our feet back underneath us, then we'll go for those wins.

You need to get in the top 30 in points. Is there any part of it where you can't take any huge risks when you're trying to figure out strategy because you need to make sure you get points each week?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]KURT BUSCH: It's a long season. The way that you can look at it is we've already used our DNF's. Whether we take a risk or not, it's my job to go for those wins. Gene Haas would rather have the car loaded up on the flatbed going for a win instead of just cruising around there trying to finish 12th.

Kurt, do you feel any sense of relief to have this first weekend back over with?

KURT BUSCH: It's nice to check it off the box. It's a long season. I knew I'd be back. NASCAR gave me a template with the road to recovery. I accepted it as soon as possible and worked as diligently as I could with it. As we move forward, it now feels great to have this weekend done. Now we go to Fontana. The 41 car, it's got a topâ€'five finish already this year.

Kurt, early in the weekend you said you were nervous going into turn one in practice. What was it like today?

KURT BUSCH: It was the butterflies. An entertaining feel inside the car because of all the newness, the other cars around me. Not having done restarts yet with this new aero package, combined with the lack of power, there were a lot of guys shifting using third gear through turns one and two. It makes for a lot of variables. I had to build up a pattern to eliminate some of those variables. That's why it was some anxious times.

THE MODERATOR: Kurt, congratulations on a solid run today. We thank you for your time this afternoon.

KURT BUSCH: Thank you.

Leave a Reply