Ford Performance NASCAR: Harvick Gives Mustang Round of 16 Sweep
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang -- VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW -- “Man, I just want to say thank you to all the fans. I was so jacked up when we started this race because of you guys and Bristol Motor Speedway. I’m just really, really proud of everybody on our Busch Light Ford. Mobil 1, Hunt Brothers Pizza, everybody from Jimmy John’s, Fields. We’ll bring the sword to the go-kart tent tomorrow, so you boys better be ready to take a picture.”
WHAT ABOUT THE BATTLE WITH KYLE? “To beat Kyle Busch at Bristol, I kind of got myself in a little bit of a ringer there. I hit a lapped car and got a hole in the right-front nose, but just kept fighting. We don’t have anything else to lose. We were here to try to win a race. I know how much Rodney really enjoys coming here and, hell, how can you not enjoy coming here with all this enthusiasm. Everybody is tired of being at home.”
TO WIN IN FRONT OF FANS MAKES IT MORE SPECIAL. “It does. I know you guys are tired of being at home like me, so I’m glad you’re all here having a hell of a time. Thank you.”
NINE WINS IS A PERSONAL BEST FOR YOU. HOW DOES IT FEEL? “I’m just so happy to drive this Busch Light Ford. I’m so happy to see all these fans in the grandstands. I was so jacked up when I got in this race car tonight to come here and just race and to be able to do that in front of people, that’s the enthusiasm that you get is from the crowd and I’m so excited for our team. Everybody from Busch Light and Mobil 1, Ford Mustang, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Jimmy John’s, everybody who helps us at the shop. The guys are just doing a great job.”
YOU HAD A GREAT BATTLE WITH KYLE BUSCH. HOW MUCH WERE YOU LOOKING IN THE MIRROR? “I got a hole in the right-front nose and it made the car tight, so I had to take a little more risk in the middle of the corner and risk missing the middle of the corner, but I found a pretty good groove in one and two, and was able to get through those lapped cars pretty good, so it all worked out.”
IS THERE ANY WAY TO SAY HOW GOOD THIS SEASON FEELS? “There is not. It’s just been a weird a year, but it’s been an unbelievable year on the racetrack. I can’t thank everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing enough.”
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Advance Auto Parts Ford Mustang -- “We started off tight and then that second run we got really tight after the comp caution and lost a lot of track position. After that, we kind of were able to drive up through there. We got to fifth or sixth the one time and we were super tight again and it went really long. That just kind of made it worse and we just kind of got behind there. The track just swung really tight. I was kind of tight all night, but it just swung really tight on us and that was just the wrong direction that the track needed to be at. That stinks. I thought we got our car pretty close there in the second half of the race after the second stage, and then we were on the cycle of pitting and getting laps down and was on old stuff, so it was an unfortunate end for this 12 group, but I’m really proud of the effort this year and we’re not done. We can still go and try to win races and try to get fifth in points, so thanks to Advance Auto Parts and Menards and Ford for what they do. We’ve got seven more races. We’ll do our best.”
CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang -- “We definitely did what we needed to do. Our Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Engine Ford Mustang was pretty good tonight. We were just way too loose to run with the 4 or the 18. The cycle on the tires when we actually had that caution, had a cycle on the tires and that usually makes it tighter and that was by far our best run. We drove up through them pretty good and put ourselves in position there, but as soon as the green flag dropped right there at the end I was right back loose again. We did what we had to do. Obviously, you come here to win a race and be on top of that building over there, but proud of the guys and all their efforts. We’re moving forward and that’s all that matters right now.”
COLE CUSTER, No. 41 HaasTooling.com/Autodesk Ford Mustang -- “We just struggled here. I don’t know why. I’ve always liked Bristol, it just hasn’t come together this year here. We’ve just really struggled. I just can’t thank everybody enough at SHR, everybody at HaasTooling.com, Autodesk. I just wish we had a better night. We were just a little bit off. I think we can hang our heads high on what we’ve done this year, but we still have a lot of races to win the rest of this year, so we just have to keep building.”
HOW PROUD ARE YOU OF YOUR GUYS AND THE POSITION THEY PUT YOU IN? “It’s all about the people. I think for where we started this year, where I was at, they’ve all helped me so much getting better and better, and now we can run consistently and run decent. We just missed it the last few weeks a little bit and hopefully we can keep working at it and we’ll come back better next year.”
MATT DIBENEDETTO, No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford Mustang -- “If we didn’t have bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck at all. I don’t know. It’s just frustrating. I hate it. I want to get Menards and Dutch Boy and this team a good run like they deserve because we’ve had a rough couple weeks, and had a loose wheel, overcome it -- drive through the entire field with a lot of green flag. We get to seventh, hoping for a caution, but either way we drove to the top 10 -- good run -- and I was screaming, ‘Debris in 1,’ three damn times and we found it. We ran it over multiple times and I cut the right-rear down and it just ruins our day.”
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO GO THROUGH THIS PROCESS OF THE HIGHS OF MAKING IT IN AND THE LOWS OF BEING ELIMINATED? “I can’t possibly explain to people the emotional rollercoaster of doing this for a living. I am very appreciative to do it and love it and I hope I’m driving for this team next year and hope to keep on doing it. We have a lot to build off of. We’re just barely getting started, but, man, it is tough. I’m glad we made the playoffs. I’m proud of my team. Tonight shows the fight that we have as a team, rebounding like that. I just hate that we miss the next round and had some not-so-good races, bad luck tonight, you name it, but we’ve got a lot of season left. We still have a lot of positions in points to fight for and we have fast race cars like you see tonight, so we still have a lot of stuff left and hopefully a lot of good things to come.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang -- “It was a frustrating night, there is no way around that. I am thankful we were able to lead some laps but that certainly was not what we were hoping for. We had a power steering pump issue. I am not sure exactly what it was. I will let the team guys get to that and chase it down. Obviously it killed out chances. I don't know what would have happened if we didn’t have that problem but we did so we will move on to the next week and I am thankful we had the win at Richmond last week to fall back on.”
ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC HEADING INTO THE NEXT ROUND? “Sure. Obviously we just can’t have mechanical failures, those are killers. And I can’t make mistakes and run into the wall and we can’t have mechanical failures. I am really thankful that we had such a strong performance at Richmond. I am still very proud of that and hopefully we will learn from Darlington and this week here in Bristol and be that much better for it.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang -- “We had a car that was probably top-five. It wasn’t as good as the 4 and 18 but we had something that was competitive and had that longer run with a loose right rear wheel and we tried to make it last long and it started to get pretty bad. Here, if you go too long it will ruin your chances for the day. It felt like we were late enough in the run that maybe we would start to cycle if we pit. We were so close. The caution was because of the 4 pitting and bottling everyone up. We were probably 10 or 15 laps from the cycle being complete and getting our lap back and being in contention for an even better finish. That is how it goes sometimes. We had a solid car and we have a lot of momentum still into the playoffs with three really solid runs outside of one little hiccup here. We will move on to the next round and be happy.”
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang -- “Well, what an awesome night for our No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang. We got a top-10 at Bristol. I’m really proud of everybody at Front Row Motorsports. I’m so thankful to Bob Jenkins and all of my guys for giving me this opportunity. It’s the best season that I’ve ever had and another top-10 really helps to keep our momentum rolling. We also have a Ford in Victory Lane, so that’s awesome. I’m just super-excited to get a top-10 at Bristol.”
POST-RACE BUBBLE ZOOM PRESS CONFERENCE
RYAN BLANEY -- WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE FOR YOU TONIGHT? “We started off tight and after the competition caution I thought the racetrack went really tight and we kind of had a longer run there for the first stage and we went right backwards. I was just super-tight on exit. I thought we made a decent swing at it the second stage and then after the second stage we got to fifth or sixth and something like that I was like, ‘Okay.’ Pretty decent running down fourth and fifth and then just like a light switch got really tight on exit again and couldn’t run the bottom. I was just super-tight on exit and where my strengths were up top they went away after maybe 80-90 laps, so that definitely stinks. We were kind of just back-and-forth on it, but it’s a shame we didn’t transfer. It was just a back-and-forth night and then we got caught up when we pitted under green and just got caught two down and that was kind of the story of it.”
HOW SURPRISED ARE YOU TO BE IN THIS POSITION BEING OUT IN THE FIRST ROUND? “I’m upset about it. I don’t want to be knocked out with seven races to go and not be able to run for a championship. I’m not very excited about that, but there’s a lot of things we could have cleaned up as a group together, myself included, and we just didn’t perform. We didn’t perform in the first round like we needed to to transfer and that’s something you’ll have. We just needed to step up and we just had too many issues, but we still have seven races left. We’ll try to win one or two of them and try to get fifth in points. We’ve still got that, so there’s still a goal that you’re trying to go to. Yeah, it sucks that you’re not able to run for it, but I’m just disappointed -- not really disappointed. It’s kind of hard to put into words. I wish we all had a better three races as a team. I know this team can have great races and it’s a shame we missed that a little bit.”
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SPEED YOU GUYS SHOWED EARLY IN THE YEAR WHEN YOU STARTED SO WELL? “I’m not sure. I thought we still had decent speed maybe even a couple months ago. I don’t know. Things haven’t really fallen into place and maybe our speed is not quite there. I’d love to tell you if I knew what it was, we would try to fix it, but I just think it was some tough racetracks that kind of came around for us and not stepping up to the occasion as a whole group, me as a driver for sure included. I’d love to tell you. I don’t think we’ve lost all of our speed. I think at times we show a lot of speed, maybe it’s not as consistent as what it was earlier in the first half of the year, but I still think it’s there. We just have to find it here again for the last seven.”
BEFORE YOU GOT CAUGHT A COUPLE LAPS DOWN DID YOU FEEL YOU HAD A SHOT TO WIN? “Even when I thought we were our best, when we were like fifth or sixth, the 4 and the 18 just looked absolutely incredible, pretty much untouchable, so I knew it was gonna take a lot for us to try to continue to get our car better and then line up close to them to see what we could do. I never really thought of that at the time. I just tried to figure out how to get our car better and keep working our way back up through the field because we had a lot of work to do, but, no, the 4 and the 18 obviously looked pretty special.”
WHEN YOU SEE THAT WITH THE 4 AND THE 18 ARE YOU DEFLATED BECAUSE YOU KNOW THE CHANCES OF ADVANCING ARE SLIM? “I don’t think of that. I’m thinking how to make my car go faster. That’s what I think of. You notice it, but you don’t dwell on it. You try to think about your own deal.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED TO BE IN THIS POSITION? “I think I already answered this, but I feel like the speed is still there, it’s just maybe not as consistent. I’m not surprised. We work hard every week. Sometimes you have rough patches as a team, but sometimes things are really clicking really well and your car is fast and things are working out for you. We had that the first half of the year. I’d like to see us get back to that consistent speed we were showing the first half of the year, first two-thirds of the year, and I’m sure we’ll be able to find that. We’ll work really hard, Todd and myself and everybody, to find that for the last seven.”
COLE CUSTER -- WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE DAMAGE TO YOUR CAR AND DID THAT PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR STRUGGLED? “Yeah, that definitely did. That pretty much kind of did us in for the night. I think we got our lap back at that point and we were just in line with a bunch of cars and somebody got together and everybody stacked up and everybody just hit each other and we got our nose knocked in, so that’s just classic Bristol, I guess. That’s part of running back there. We had to run better. I was probably a little bit off. It’s just been hard to get the feel that I want here. I haven’t struggled this much at Bristol before, but it’s definitely been tough in the Cup car trying to figure it out.”
YOU WERE IN A CRASH THE FIRST TIME AROUND. DID NOT HAVING THOSE LAPS HURT YOU TONIGHT? “I don’t know, definitely a little bit. You want to get all the laps you can, but at the same time, I thought we were all right the spring race, but the All-Star Race and this race we just seemed to be off. I don’t know. I tried to study as much as I could coming here and trying to figure something out, but we’re just missing it somewhere. We’ll definitely keep trying and keep trying things to get it better, but definitely Bristol is not our strongest track for me right now.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR SEASON AS A WHOLE TO THIS POINT? “We’ve accomplished a lot of our goals. I mean, to go from where we started and be able to be competitive now. Obviously, tonight we were off a little bit, but for the most part we could run pretty competitively and I think that was one of our goals by the end of the year and then also to make the playoffs and to have a win by now, and to win Rookie of the Year. There are a lot of things that we can hold our head high on, but at the same time as a competitor I’m not happy about getting knocked out in the first round and really struggling tonight, but we’ll keep working at it and that’s part of it. We’ll just keep trying things and keep grinding away at it.”
MATT DIBENEDETTO -- WHAT HAPPENED TONIGHT, ESPECIALLY THE LAST RUN? DID YOU HAVE A RIGHT-REAR TIRE GOING DOWN? “Yeah, so we had a loose wheel early in the race and pitted under green and went three laps down. Fought back from that the whole race long and drove through the field. The team did a really good job. We recovered. We were up to seventh and were in the lucky dog position for what felt like four hours and couldn’t get it, so we were running seventh there. At the end a fast car and there was debris I think from the 95 car in turn one and I was screaming about it on the radio and we kept running it over I think a couple times and, sure enough, cut a right-rear tire and ruined our day and ended up finishing 19th. If our team didn’t have bad luck lately, we wouldn’t have any at all. It’s disappointing, kind of like Cole said, it sucks being knocked out in the first round, but you’ve got to be perfect in these playoffs. I’m glad we made them. We have a lot of things to build on it.”
HOW DO YOU LEAVE BRISTOL TONIGHT LOOKING FORWARD? “Bristol is still definitely my favorite track. I love coming here. I was really proud of our fight tonight. I mean, those things are very satisfying coming from three laps down and fighting in such a tough field in a playoff race, to come from three laps down with a ton of green flag racing -- to fight all the way back to running seventh and in the lucky dog spot forever. So this place has impacted my entire career. This place was heavily responsible or partially responsible for me being able to have the privilege to drive this 21 car this year, too. So, there’s a lot that I’m really appreciative for and this place is very close to my heart. I hope to get a win here one day. I hate we couldn’t have rebounded further today. I’m glad we did a great job as a team, fought back like that, but hated to have it end that way cutting a tire down when we had a good run.”
BEFORE THE WHEEL ISSUE IN THE LUCKY DOG POSITION DID YOU THINK IF YOU GOT THAT YOU HAD A SHOT TO WIN? “I don’t think so. We were really fast on the long run, but I think in the short run it took us a little bit to take off. We were a good car, I think. I mean, we were a top five car, I’d say. It was fast. It was good. We had to work on it though. This no practice thing is a real pain in the ass, if I’m being honest. It’s just so hard because we have to make so many adjustments and things, and I feel like it hurts. We can perform better if we had practice for sure, especially being a new team working together this year. We’ve done a great job, but I don’t think we would have won the race. I think the 4 car was deserving of winning, but I think we had a top-five car. I would have been content with a seventh-place run. That would have been a solid day and an amazing recovery for us, but we’ve had some bad luck lately.”
Q. Clint, once you heard that Byron was out and you were kind of racing cold, did that change your dynamic?
CLINT BOWYER: You know, not really. Obviously they told me that on the radio. I saw it. That's a shame for William. He had a good run going, and Chad has been doing a good job there with those guys.
But I mean, from there ‑‑ it's short track racing. You don't have time to think about points and all that stuff. There's nothing you can do. You attack the racetrack, 100 percent every lap, especially at a place ‑‑ bullring like this. Love these short tracks. Obviously was hoping to be a little bit better, but at the end of the day we did what we came here to do, and that's advance. Obviously you come here to win the race, but proud of Kevin Harvick and everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing for winning the race here and taking care of business with the 10 and the 14, and we'll move on and survive and live to see another round here in the playoffs.
Q. What's it like when you're running in the first stage and they tell you, well, just try to stay on the lead lap?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, I was struggling. Way too loose pretty much all night. The way the race played out there with the end of that last stage, we were able to stay out. It was a long kind of cycle on those tires, and that tightened me up a great bit. I think we overestimated how much that did because that was by far our best run, drove up through them and was really ripping the bottom good and making good lap times. But as soon as we put four tires back on it, it was right back to shaking the rear end loose and couldn't keep it underneath of me and unfortunately fell back to sixth.
You hate to give up those positions there at the end, but given the scenario and how loose I was, I mean, you're just right there using your head and doing the right things to make the next round.
Q. You had three top‑10 finishes in this round. Did this stretch of races feel like a statement from the No. 14 team a little, don't forget about us, we're here to stay, we're here to compete? Did that feel like a statement at all this stretch?
CLINT BOWYER: No, I mean, I just feel comfortable we're getting back to our consistency. I guess for a long time in my career I was kind of steady Eddie, and that's what it takes in these playoffs, to go the rounds, you can't make mistakes. I said that going into these playoffs. For our team, we've got to live up to our capabilities, and if we can do that and race to our capabilities and not make the mistakes we were making through the summer months, we can contend and move forward rounds in this playoff system, and that's what we're doing.
Q. How do you feel about continuing your race for champion next week at Las Vegas?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, looking forward to getting out to Sin City and having some fun out there. Hopefully we can double down, get some stage points and continue to march forward up through this playoff system and the points. We're definitely starting behind again, there's no question about that. We've got to get out there and swing for the fence. These are the playoffs; you don't base hit it. Steady Eddie got us through this round, but from here on you've got to get up to the plate and swing for the fence every time, and every decision, and that's in the car and out of the car, we've got to lay it on the line and go for it, and that's why these playoffs are fun.
Q. I know the Round of 12 is pretty unpredictable with Talladega and the Roval, but how do you feel like the round shapes up for your team?
CLINT BOWYER: I like it. I'm ready. Talladega is a crapshoot. Roval is a lot of fun. But again, things can happen. At the end of the day I've had a different approach to the whole thing this year. This whole damned year has been chaotic and everything else, and you've just got to go out there and do the best you can do and not worry about or panic about anything else. That's all you can do anyway. Just taking it race by race, and I'm looking forward to this round, too. These are some of my best finishes coming at these tracks right here. Vegas has been an up‑and‑down track for me to say the least, but I'm really looking forward to Talladega, believe it or not, and obviously the Roval.
FORD PERFORMANCE DRIVER - POST RACE QUOTES
Ford Finishing Results
1st - Kevin Harvick
5th - Aric Almirola
6th - Clint Bowyer
8th - Chris Buescher
10th - Michael McDowell
11th - Joey Logano
13th - Ryan Blaney
19th - Matt DiBenedetto
20th - John Hunter Nemechek
23rd - Cole Custer
25th - Ryan Newman
27th - Gray Gaulding
31st - Joey Gase
33rd - Corey LaJoie
34th - Brad Keselowski
HARVICK PROPELS MUSTANG TO ROUND OF 16 SWEEP WITH 9TH WIN OF 2020
- Kevin Harvick won his ninth race of the season and 58th of his Cup career by winning tonight’s race.
The win gives Mustang a sweep of the Round of 16 after Harvick won at Darlington and Brad Keselowski at Richmond.
All nine of Harvick’s wins have come since NASCAR returned to action on May 17..
The win is Mustang’s 17th of the season.
Harvick is 9th on the all-time Cup win list with his 58 victories.
Harvick now has 23 Ford Cup wins, which puts him into a tie for 10th on the all-time Ford list. What makes that accomplishment so impressive is Harvick has done it in only three-plus seasons.
This marks the 29th win for Stewart-Haas Racing since joining Ford (Harvick has won 23).
Today’s win is Ford’s 703rd all-time in NASCAR Cup Series competition.
Ron Fleshman with John Davison
RIS NASCAR Editor. Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.