KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY EXCLUSIVE: "Kroger 300 Presented by Oreo" Grand Marshal Kevin Harvick Speaks During Speedway Test
Speedway Director of Communications Tim Bray sat down with NASCAR Winston Cup Driver Kevin Harvick during his May 20 test at Kentucky Speedway.
TB: Being Grand Marshal, Have you ever said "Gentleman Start your Engines," before and how are you going to do it?
KH: I'm really not prepared (laughing). I've never done it before. It's always cool to do something different, and fun to come to Kentucky Speedway. We've tested a lot in Kentucky, raced here, and won here. It's going to be cool to do something different.
TB: Kevin, one of the great things about this is the opportunity to come back, not to defend, but at least you'll be here at the track where you won at last year.
KH: We had a great season last year and Kentucky Speedway is one of the key places we had to race, just for the fact it wasn't a companion event with the Winston Cup Series. It was away from Winston Cup and we had do go back and forth. Everything worked out good that weekend, so it was great to win at a place where we've done so much testing at and spent a lot of time.
TB: Take me back to last year, what do you remember about the win here, racing here, or just getting here?
KH: It was a pretty eventful weekend. The first day we had an open practice because it was a new racetrack for us. The second day it rained. We came back on the third day and Mike (Bliss) was driving the car and crashed the car. When I came back to qualify, I had to go in the back-up car and make the first two laps in qualifying, so we qualified eleventh.
TB: Then you led a bunch of laps and brought it to Victory Lane.
KH: Yeah, we led a ton of laps after I got use to the car again and adjusted to the racetrack. We came and led a lot of laps in front of a sell-out house. That's one of the coolest things about coming to Kentucky Speedway, it doesn't matter what's racing, there's a lot of race fans around here. We enjoy just coming to the racetrack and racing in front of that many people.
TB: Kevin, you are a member of Team Nabisco. How did that all work out? Just fill me in on the camaraderie of the guys and being part of Team Nabisco.
KH: It's a pretty cool program. Nabisco is very supportive of myself, Dale Jr., Steve Park and Michael Waltrip. The four of us are all members of the Nabisco family. They're on our car with the Oreo brand. Giving our past history at Kentucky Speedway, Nabisco asked me to do this and I said, "O.K. that'll be kind of cool." It will be a unique event for me and, also a pretty cool one for everyone else involved.
TB: So much has happened since you won here last year, first and foremost, the Busch Championship.
KH: Yeah, the Busch Championship was obviously really special last year. When the year started, that was our goal. After the first race, we didn't know where any of us were going or what was going to happen to us. We just laid out a little plan for the next month or two, went from there and everything evolved into a Busch Championship, Rookie of the Year in Winston Cup, and winning a lot of races.
TB: Doubling-up with racing Winston and Busch, this had to really wear you out.
KH: I was worn out by September. I was done with racecars, didn't like racecars and didn't want to be around racecars (laughing). I was tired of airplanes, helicopters, and racetracks. We also had a lot of reasons to get out and do something out of the ordinary. To do something we needed to prove as an organization. It was a unique situation, but a really good situation for all of us.
TB: Just looking back, taking an unforeseen thing - going to the 29. You had to set back at the end of the season to say this is quite an accomplishment.
KH: It was an accomplishment, not only for myself, but for everyone at RCR. There were a lot of people that poured a lot of extra time, energy and organization. There were a lot of people involved. Kentucky Speedway was very cooperative in helicopters and transportation. There are a lot of speedways, seven other racetracks where we had to do that. It was an eventful year to come through and to accomplish what we have accomplished was a great achievement for our organization.
TB: Now that you're full-time in Winston Cup, you don't have to worry about this back and forth stuff. Is it better or do you feel like something is missing? You can't be missing all of those airplanes and helicopters.
KH: No, I don't miss any of it to tell you the truth. I like to be in the racecar. I just have to find other times to race. We're going through a big transition at RCR with the three race teams and moving. There are not a lot of things going on that were not foreseen by a lot of people, but we're getting there. We tested last week at Chicago. We're testing here today and tomorrow, and we're just getting back in the grove of things and trying to make things a little better.
TB: Is 29 running well?
KH: Everything is good. It rolled off the trailer pretty good. It ran good at "The Winston" the other night. We're looking forward to going through the rest of the season.
TB: This has been a pretty good year, obviously you have your problems, but every team goes through that.
KH: Yeah, we came off a pretty incredible year last year. We went through a lot of things. We did a lot of testing, but we didn't have time to really focus on one thing. This year we went through the transition with the third race, new shop and new people. Just trying to find a balance with everything is hard. We haven't had a lot of time to really concentrate on what we need to concentrate on 100 percent. I'm not saying that we haven't concentrated, just not as much as we could. We've wrecked four or five times, been at the wrong place at the wrong time and blew up two motors. That's just the way this sport works.
TB: It has to wear thin on you a little bit, being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I know you're an aggressive driver. You have to say to yourself, "How am I going to keep my aggressiveness, but yet try to stay at the right place?" You know?
KH: Well you just go on with it. This is not a "what you did last week" sport, this is a "what you did this week" sport. You just do the best you can and do things the way you know how to do them.