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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Kevin Harvick, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kasey Kahne and Austin Dillon comment on Duel races

KERRY THARP: Let's hear from our race winner for today's first Budweiser Duel at Daytona. Back again in the media center here at Daytona International Speedway is Kevin Harvick. He's joined by crew chief Gil Martin.
Kevin, you're two for two. You would like for it to be three for three come Sunday evening. Talk about this racecar as you get primed up trying to win that 500 again.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, obviously it's been a great start to Speedweeks obviously with the Unlimited. To get our first win with Budweiser onboard for the first time in the Duels is really cool.
Guys have just done a great job. Obviously everybody thought we would qualify a little bit better, but we felt really good about our car yesterday after practice and felt like we could make some moves.
You have to be precise with this car. Obviously at the beginning of the race, got ourselves stuck in the middle trying to make something happen. Hadn't been in that particular position before to see what was going to happen. Didn't have a lot of help. Just one car in front of us. Kind of fell to the back.
They got single file. I think there were four or five cars started coming on the bottom. I thought we needed to at least try to make something happen. We were able to side draft and break them up one or two at a time.
I think that's only going to get better as you get all the cars in the pack. Hopefully on Sunday we'll be able to be right back here.
KERRY THARP: Gil Martin, talk about some of the changes you made on the racecar since you first started practicing last week.
GIL MARTIN: Really, we haven't made any changes from how we raced Unlimited Saturday night. The weather was a little bit warmer, we didn't have quite as much tape on the grill as we did Saturday. As far as everything else with the car, the same way.
The way the pit stops worked out, we just had to be out front like we were the other night. Once we were out there, he was able to do what he does best.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now for Kevin or Gil.
Q. Some of the other drivers came in here and talked about the importance of staying in line. Did you observe anything about the importance of staying in line?
KEVIN HARVICK: Oh, yeah. At the beginning of the race we got back to, I don't know, 12th or 13th there, after we tried to go through the middle, maybe a little further back than that. We were the last car in that particular line. Until the next group caught us, we weren't able to make many moves.
But the good thing about today compared to the other night is that bottom, once you get four or five cars, it can seem to make some ground on the cars on the top, even if they're lined up. As that pack gets bigger, I think that's going to get even better.
If you find a slot to fill into the line, you feel like your momentum has stalled in whatever line you're in, you need to get into that slot or you're going to go all the way to the back of it.
Q. Kevin, you talk about hopefully three for three this week. Most years it seems like somebody comes down here, wins the Shootout, wins a qualifying race. When you get multiple victories, you become the favorite. Are you feeling like the guy to beat now?
KEVIN HARVICK: We like to be the lame duck underdog. That's what we're shooting for (smiling).
You know, it's one of those deals where you want to win. We've been fortunate to win the first two races of Speedweeks. We just got to keep a level head on our shoulders, not get too high over what we've done, just do the same things that we've done. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be.
I think we definitely have the car and team to be in contention to do that.
Q. Montoya and Biffle were talking about there's an effect where it seems like if they run up behind a car, get on the bumper, it's like their car almost stalls and gets pushed back. Have you seen that? Do you think that is something you can work with out front?
KEVIN HARVICK: Like I told you guys the other night, it's just like it was 10 years ago. It really is. It's the same way we used to race with the old style cars, no roof fins, nothing on top of them. It's the same style race. Handling even is coming into effect as we've seen in practice and the race today.
I know Montoya wasn't around for that and Biffle might not have been. But it's just like that, it's the same style of racing.
Q. You've been in front at the end in these two races. Is there anything to be learned on your part from playing defense, if you will, if you find yourself in that position on Sunday night?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, for sure. I mean, you know, today both lines were side?by?side and you were able to kind of feed each line a little bit of air and try to keep 'em even. That's the best way to keep 'em at bay is keep 'em side?by?side.
The other night those guys got a big run, and blocking came into play. We were able to be fortunate enough to pull that block off and not get wrecked.
You know, it's two different endings, but I think for us, I want to be in the front and be in control of what's going on. If we can get to that point and be able to dictate whether you need to block, move up, move down, side draft. You have options as the leader. That's the position I want to be in.
Q. Has fatherhood made you mellower or changed your outlook on life? Gil, you've been through some ups and downs with Kevin. Speak to that as well.
KEVIN HARVICK: I've told several people this. It's added a new balance to my life where I can still come to the racetrack and I feel like I'm more relaxed and more focused, which is good for me. I don't get as wound up on things when they happen, whether it's in the car, outside the car.
When you've had a bad day, you're frustrated, you're right to the point where you can say something stupid, you go back to the motorhome, you see that smiling face, it lets you get your mind off of things.
It's added a great balance to my life. I think it's made me better.
GIL MARTIN: Yeah, I'll have to agree with that. At the racetrack, his focus is still there. As he leaves the racetrack, with having his son to go back to, you don't have to go in and look for some excitement outside of the track, it's already there waiting on him.
I think with that being in his life now, it's going to do nothing but help him and direct his focus on Sunday. I'm looking forward to watching what happens.
Q. You mentioned the lame duck thing. Can you talk about what these two finishes and these two races kind of show the focus of your team being in this situation? What does that say about the team and about the season?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think as we approached the end of last year, obviously with Gil, the consistency of the guys, over the winter they knew exactly what they were going to do. Everybody was focused on building racecars. There wasn't really any drama. The drama was over once Richard and I talked about everything that was going to happen at the end of this year. The emotional side of it was gone. Everything was pretty much done.
We both agreed to put all the effort in. From an RCR standpoint, they're putting all the effort they can into it. I'm going to put all I can into it. Gil and these guys, they don't care, they just want to win races. They're going to work on the car whether it's a guy that's going to be here for tomorrow or for 20 years, their job is the same.
A lot of responsibility to be professionals and do our jobs, and we have a lot of pride, too. Pride is key in this whole situation as to how we perform.
Q. We had another wreck today of the sort of side?by?side variety. What is your view on what's causing those? Are you concerned about that for Sunday?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, we've been fortunate to have a pretty good?handling racecar. My car definitely got looser today. But I haven't seen the one in the race yet. I saw the one with the 39 in practice. I heard a lot of guys talk about their cars being loose in the Unlimited. We never experienced any of that. I think it's a matter of how you came down here with the balance of your racecar.
Gil and I talked about what we thought we needed coming down here after the test, went a particular direction. It's worked out for us.
I'll have to go back and watch the one in the race. I can't answer that one.
Q. You come from Bakersfield. Talk to me about what it was like in Bakersfield. Do you ever hear from folks from back home?
KEVIN HARVICK: Oh, yeah, I still have a lot of friends in Bakersfield. My whole family still lives there. We go back frequently to visit. We do a lot of foundation work, go and do a lot of things with my old high school for the last several years. So we do a lot in the town.
I was fortunate to grow up in California, but in a racing town. There wasn't too many of those in California. So Bakersfield is supported from drag racing to go?kart racing to oval track racing, dirt and asphalt. It was a great place to grow up.
Q. Gil, as far as from the testing, can you explain to fans what you've learned to the actual conditions of a race like today?
GIL MARTIN: Well, from testing obviously we did a lot of single?car runs. There wasn't a tremendous amount we could learn from the testing as far as drafting goes.
But fortunately I was around when Kevin was talking about 10 years ago, we kind of knew what those cars needed. That hasn't changed a great deal as far as the setups on the car. I was a little bit surprised by that, that the setups we run a while back are still working now. Hopefully they'll continue to work one more day.
Q. Kevin, can you talk about how this car drove today compared to the Shootout car since you've had practice, adjustments? Was the comfort level higher in this car than it was when you won the other night?
KEVIN HARVICK: No. The comfort level was definitely not as high, just for the fact that the car was just up on top of the racetrack a little more on the exits of the corner. But very manageable. You had to pay attention to controlling your racecar than trying to make a move. You had to concentrate on both instead.
Q. You ran 60 laps today. Sunday is going to be about the best weather we've seen throughout the whole week. Is there any compensation you're going to have to make when you run that many laps if the track gets a little hot?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I think the weather's going to be maybe a couple degrees hotter, but not a whole lot as we go into the weekend. That will at least make some easy decisions for us as we go into the weekend as far as handling goes and what we need to do.
But, you know, I think as you get into a long race like that, obviously you only had one pit stop today, you're going to have multiple pit stops and you're going to have to change fours tires at some particular point. You're going to see the field get mixed up because people are going to be on varying strategies, for sure.
Q. Kevin, it was kind of follow the leader there for the first 35 laps, nothing happened, then you made a move and a lot started happening. What happened there on lap 36 to cause you to all of a sudden decide that was the time to go?
KEVIN HARVICK: We felt like the 99 and whoever was behind him, we felt like they were making some ground. We didn't come here to run 10th or 12th, wherever we were running. We wanted to try to make something happen.
We felt like we probably could have made something happen before that if we had a car behind us to fill in those gaps in front of us. Those guys were making up ground on the bottom. Everybody seemed content on the top. We slid down in front of the 99, started side drafting. Those guys were side drafting. Next thing you know, we had four or five of them pulled apart and were making some headway.
We drove pretty much all the way to the front and kind of changed the complexion of the race at that particular point.
Q. That pit stop that you made with Trevor right behind you, were you trying to squeeze him to the outside? He got off into the grass.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I looked up right before the yellow line and thought, you know, he had fallen into line. Next thing I know, I'd shoved him in the grass. Just the way it worked out.
KERRY THARP: Guys, congratulations. Two for two. Might see you again. Thank you.
KERRY THARP: We have the Budweiser Duel 1 in the books behind us. We have our third?place finisher, that is Juan Pablo Montoya.
Juan, you weaved your way up through there towards the second half of that race. Looked like you had a strong racecar. Talk about how things went out there for you today.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It was kind of a weird race. The second or third lap, we talked with Dale before the race, we both wanted to get to the front, I'll just follow him. I went into turn three. Our car has been pretty good. If anything it's been a little loose. Went into turn one, it headed towards the fence. I felt the chatter, I put on the brakes, and even like that, I just ran out of room.
I just had to run at the top. Rode for a while. Had the pit stop. We decided we were doing four tires. It was just too slow. We lost ground. Then at the end it was good.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Juan.
Q. Saturday night the lower inside lane looked weak. People said there weren't enough cars down there. Today it looked very weak again.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: The bottom won; the leaders were on the bottom, as far as I remember. I was following them. I was on the bottom.
Q. But he was up high most of the race.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: The problem is most of the restrictor plate races, when you're in a big pack, it's easier to control the pack when you're on the top than the bottom.
Usually when it comes to close the race, the bottom is the way to go.
Q. So you don't think the bottom is a dead issue, it still remains to be seen whether the bottom lane can be stronger?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, I don't know. The problem is there's never enough cars on the bottom. You know, you start on the bottom, somebody bails out, somebody bails out, somebody jumps in front. It never gets enough momentum.
Don't you think?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: That's where it works.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Really tight. A lot of people, you could hear the guys running the top. I felt the top was way tighter than the bottom.
Q. Juan, you stopped late for repairs. What was wrong with the car? And where did you come from? You were far back on the restart.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We came in. Actually wasn't too bad. When I came to the stop, something fell out of the right front, like split open. So the fender split open. When I came in, they put tape on it and fixed it.
The restart, the car felt like it felt yesterday in practice. Had a lot of speed. I was going to get in line on the top. I felt I had good momentum, I'm just going to give it a go. I went to the middle, had a great run. Went to the bottom, Tony came with that, that helped.
Like Michael (Waltrip) said, you got cars on the bottom, it makes it look good. It's fun. That's what shows. You just got to be there at the end to have a chance.
Q. It seemed like regardless of bottom line, top line, which one worked, it was mostly a parade, then everybody started to go about 10 laps to go? Is that the pace you are electing to run?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: You know, I think it's hard to really make any moves. For the 500, you're going to have double cars. There's going to be people running the bottom all the time, people running the top all the time. You are going to have two proper lanes. I think it's going to be a little bit different.
You know, it's hard, you don't want to tear up the car, and at the same time you want to go. The bumpers are a little fragile. You have to be careful with that. You want to have a good car at the end.
Q. What did you mean by 'stall'?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: You're pushing so much air with the nose. Open?wheel is different. In open?wheel you drop and you actually get the extra speed. Here you get the extra speed when you get close to the car in front, the air you get, you actually push the car in front forward. You actually make it go faster. For me it was really weird at the beginning.
Q. Different than what you've experienced before?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: This car you can notice it more, as well.

KERRY THARP: Let's now hear from our second? and third?place finishers in the second Budweiser Duel at Daytona. Our race runner?up is Kasey Kahne.
Kasey, talk about your run out there today and how you think things are shaking out for your team on Sunday.
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I thought we had a great run today. I was able to get right to Jeff in the first four or five laps there. From that point, just trailed him and tried messing with the lanes of choice and things like that.
But once we had the pit stop, we were a little ways behind and kind of got in with Paul Menard, back up into the leaders. There were only six, seven cars in the line, so it made it tough to make a move. At the end we were able to get a couple cars on the last lap.
But Kyle was fast. So was the 20. The 33 pushed me really well. I think the 15 was right in there, too. It was a good run for us.
KERRY THARP: Let's go to questions for Kasey Kahne.
Q. After watching Kevin Harvick's dominant run last Saturday night and then again today, does anybody have anything for him on Sunday?
KASEY KAHNE: I think Kevin looks really good. I always think Kevin is one of the guys to beat, when we come to Daytona especially. He's got this place figured out, for a long time he has. He showed that they're really fast. He understands this type of racing really well.
I think he can be beat, yeah. I felt like my car, Jeff, the 18, there's a few of us in the second race there that had really good cars, I could move around really well, similar to what Harvick looked like in the first one.
It will be interesting. But, yeah, Kevin's going to be good.
Q. Both races and Saturday, it looked like it was really difficult to pass a leader. Kyle even said once you have track position, it wasn't too hard to keep it. How are we going to see any passing on Sunday?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I feel like the only way is if there's a bigger pack and if there's more cars together, you know. Right there, you can pass some of the other guys as long as you have a car pushing you.
When you get to the leader, I was in line behind Jeff forever, and there was no way I was going to pass him. We need to keep working, keep trying to get the cars better to suck up a little more on that front car and then hope for bigger packs come Sunday if we want to pass.
Q. If it becomes more of a track position game than this years past, how will that change the strategy of the race? Do you think people will have to make a winning move with two laps or three laps to go instead of the last lap?
KASEY KAHNE: I think it's tough because you don't know when you get that push. You don't know when it plays into your time. Maybe it's 20 laps to go if there's no cautions at the end. Maybe 20 is when you get the opportunity to make the pass. I think you need to be ready at any time to get to the front, to second, to third, try to move up. I don't think waiting till the last lap is a ticket the way things are right now.
I remember my first couple years here, the fields were really spread out throughout half the 500 or more. Handling played a factor. Just kind of where you were on the racetrack. It might be more similar to how those days were.
KERRY THARP: We're also joined by our third?place finisher, Austin Dillon.
Austin, talk about the anticipation, the excitement about running in your first Daytona 500 on Sunday.
AUSTIN DILLON: It's pretty exciting. I'm glad my grandfather can sleep now. He was wearing me out before the race, especially when those three cars got in.
It was fun. We kept it out front with Kasey and some of those guys all day. Worked well together. It was a blast out there. Pretty tough to pass, you got to be patient, and that's what we were.
KERRY THARP: We'll continue with questions for Kasey or Austin.
Q. Austin, a lot of the veteran drivers have been saying these cars drive like they did eight, nine years ago. You weren't racing them then. Isn't it maybe an advantage that you have no preconceptions of these car? How is your learning curve?
AUSTIN DILLON: I don't know if it's an advantage. These guys have been in the draft for a long time and any experience is good, in my opinion. You can take a little bit from everything. After the race, me and Kasey were talking about kind of when we got runs, when we could use 'em. It was kind of tough.
I think you'll see more guys using what they got out there Sunday just because when you get a run, you got to use it. There were certain times when I felt like we could have moved. It's just so hard because when you get sucked to the back, it's tough.
Q. Kasey, considering that Kevin is going to be leaving RCR at the end of the season, are you surprised he's so dominant early in the season?
KASEY KAHNE: I think Kevin is always really good here. RCR is always really good at Daytona. He's going to put in a full effort all season long. He's a racer. He wants to run well. RCR wants to run well for their partners and everything else.
I don't see them slacking this year. I think Harvick is going to be one of the guys to beat all season long.
Q. Kasey, I want to ask you about your teammate Jeff Gordon. Do you see him energized by where he's starting on Sunday?
KASEY KAHNE: I think he knows he has a fast car. When I was out there with him early in the race, I could tell his car was handling and he had the speed, probably very similar to what my car had. I'm really excited for Sunday.
I'd imagine Jeff is also. I mean, he's won a lot at Daytona over the years, so this is a place that he knows he can win and he has a great shot at winning when he's here.
KERRY THARP: Thank you Austin, Kasey. Good luck the remainder of the weekend.-


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