BY JEFF GLUCK USA Today Sports
Bakersfield native Kevin Harvick is currently sixth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings entering today's race at Dover International Speedway.
He will start the race in 12th place.
The racer for Richard Childress Racing sat down to answer questions recently:
From what you've seen, whose driving style is the most similar to yours?
That's hard for me to pinpoint. I listen to (team owner) Richard (Childress), and he tends to compare me to how David Pearson used to race. It's hard for me to compare that, because I honestly don't pay a lot of attention to it.
How much of your own racing memorabilia do you collect? Do you save firesuits, helmets and diecast cars?
Yeah, we have hundreds of suits. I always keep at least one suit. I've used some of them for auctions and things in the past, but we've documented where everything has gone. We probably have 150 helmets. (Turns to manager Josh Jones for confirmation.)
Jones : There are 172 helmets. I don't know off the top of my head about the diecasts, but we have every single diecast you've ever run.
Wow. Where do you keep all of that?
KH : Right now, the diecasts are just in storage. The suits and helmets are at my house. We rotate them into different displays we have at the house and the shop.
Outside of your family, what person has done the most for your racing career?
You know, I grew up in California -- and a lot of people didn't think of California as a racing area. But I had a lot of local support, so I'd almost narrow it down to the town of Bakersfield itself -- because there were so many people (that) contributed to my Late Model days, to my go-kart days.
I still communicate with a lot of them on a daily basis, whether it be friends or family or sponsors. The town itself has been so supportive of everything I've done since the beginning to this day that I don't think I could narrow it down to one person outside of my family just because there have been so many people who have helped me.
What percent of overall success in NASCAR has to do with the car, what percent is the driver and what percent is luck?
You've got to have a good driver, but a good driver in a bad car is nonexistent (in the race for wins). It's probably 10 percent luck and 45-45 on the driver and the car. If you have a bad car, you're done.
There are a lot of people who want a piece of your time during a race weekend -- your team, sponsors, media, fans. With all that demand, how do you divide it up?
That's probably the hardest thing to learn -- time management. I think as you go through your career, you learn how to divvy that up and the people you're with understand the patterns and the schedules that you're used to.
We've become accustomed to doing one type of appearance this many days before the race and doing other types of appearances during the week. We've tried to become more organized on the schedule further out, and our partners and people who are involved with us have understood that, so they've become planners further out.
The closer you get to an event, the less likely it is that getting exactly what you want is going to work out. So we've tried to plan ahead. I always tell people that's probably the hardest part of coming into a series next year -- we'll just use Kyle Larson for an example. Being a good race car driver is one thing, but to take all the time commitments and all the pushing and pulling and learning when to say no ... because you need to rest or focus on the things you need to do to make the car go fast -- those are the hardest things to learn and the most distracting things to learn.
I think Brad (Keselowski) would probably vouch for that as well, going from his normal weekly routine as a driver and then becoming champion and having to reshuffle all the things you do normally. He would probably say no to a lot more things than he did in order to focus on his job. So it's a hard balance to learn.
In this day and age, to keep the sponsors happy is obviously the main focus. But you have to know at some point that you have to say no and do what's right for performance.
I've heard a lot of fans come up to drivers and say something like, "Hey, remember me from that autograph session three years ago?" So it's clear they want to be remembered. What is something a fan could do to be remembered by you?
There's a guy who came to an appearance at Menards (during Chicagoland race weekend) wearing a No. 29 jersey, and he had a phone full of pictures. He had 175 diecasts that he'd collected through the years, and he had a wall of them and he showed me the pictures of his collection. People like that, you don't forget because you remember the distinct collections they have as a diehard fan of yourself. You run across those types of people in different areas -- they come to the different appearances you do in the same areas year after year. So you tend to remember the people that are those diehard fans.
I'm not sure who this is, but the last guy you wrecked -- did you do it on purpose?
A: Um ... (thinks for awhile) ... the last guy I wrecked ... (Makes eye contact with Jones). Oh yeah.
Jones : I had to remind him! (Laughs)
KH : I think I did. I think that was on purpose.
Do you want to say who that was?
KH: Yeah, I'll just keep that one in my bag.
Is there anyone in the garage who you used to clash with, but now you get along or are even friends?
I've got a much better relationship with Kurt (Busch) than I had in the past. Obviously, that started to develop at the beginning of this year (when the drivers became pseudo-teammates thanks to the RCR and Furniture Row Racing alliance).
That was not a very good relationship in the past for probably all the wrong reasons. He's going to be a teammate next year, and I've gotten to know him a lot better this year -- he and (girlfriend) Patricia (Driscoll) both -- and that's been good. He's just a hardcore racer who's actually a pretty good guy to be around.
Q: What's your song of the moment?
A: You know, I don't even have an iPod or an iTunes account. I just go to Pandora. Right now it's on the Sublime channel.
Q: Define yourself without NASCAR. Who are you away from the track?
A: That's changed a lot over the last year and a half (since son Keelan was born). I'm just a normal person. We do normal things. We go to restaurants, we go to the movies. For us, it's nice to get out of the house and just do something normal âÃ" and that's really one reason we live away from Mooresville (N.C., where most of the NASCAR community lives). We live closer to Greensboro.
It's not that there aren't race fans up there, but you don't see the same people that you see on a weekly basis. (Wife) DeLana and I make an effort to try and take Keelan out of the house and go do whatever just to be normal people.
I'm a pretty intense person at the racetrack, but when I'm not thinking about my race car or in the garage doing my job, I'm pretty laid back and I like to be organized and do normal things.
Q: I've been asking each driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Marcos Ambrose and he wanted to know: "What's your secret?"
A: What's my secret? You know, I think for me the secret to being successful in this garage is not having a closed mind. In order to keep up with the next generation (of car development) and the next ideas, you have to be able to think outside the box and not think about what you did two years ago. The evolution in this garage is constant on a weekly basis and you have to keep an open mind about it.
What's the best racing-related movie?
A: I always go back to Six Pack, but most people probably don't even know what Six Pack is. It's with Kenny Rogers. That's kind of how it used to be, riding in the motorhome with an open trailer in the back.
That's how I started go-kart racing: We'd throw the go-kart in the back of a pickup track and hook the trailer up to the back of the truck and head to the KOA (campground) closest to the racetrack and stay there for the weekend.
And do you have a question I can ask the next driver?
What's the one thing you would tell somebody that is the hardest part about your job? What's the hardest thing to deal with outside of racing the car?