Kevin Harvick, like his boss, Tony Stewart, has never been one to shy away from what he really thinks. He tends not to sugar coat things and, along with the likes of Denny Hamlin, has a reputation for being one of the most outspoken members of the NASCAR garage.
The current designated “Old Man” of NASCAR sat down with another loud voice formerly of the garage area and now on the internet, Kenny Wallace, to discuss several different issues concerning the NASCAR garage today. What did he have to say? Well, we at the Daily Downforce thought it would be cool to break it down for all of our loyal readers. Check it out.
The Drivers Counsel
At the beginning of the interview, Kenny Wallace admits that he and several drivers like Kevin Harvick and his contemporary, Denny Hamlin, have a tendency to get “mouthy” with NASCAR. He asks Kevin if this is because they care so much. In response, Kevin Havick makes it clear that he, as well as the other drivers in the Drivers Counsel, are looking at each individual situation purely from a driver’s perspective when, in reality, there’s a much bigger picture at play.
He correctly points out that the number of people involved in the industry is so large that it makes it hard to compute. Therefore, when someone like the higher ups in NASCAR or the fans say negative criticism, he has learned not to take offense to it.
He goes on to state that really within the last year and a half, the communication between drivers and NASCAR has really improved. He states that it would boggle to mind to imagine how unbelievably open NASCAR is to discussing the tougher issues with its drivers in an effort make the sport better and grow. That’s a far cry from how it allegedly was under Brian France rule.
Specifically, according to Harvick in the interview, everything came to ahead between the Drivers Advisory Counsel and the governing body of NASCAR within the last year, citing the concussion and spontaneous combustion of the NextGen car. Harvick states in the interview that he was “pissed” after his car caught fire at Darlington and he states that that was really when things started to boil over, especially for him.
He cites this incident as the catalyst for “getting things done.” They made some changes to the rear clip of the NextGen car to lessen the force an impact from the rear has on the drivers as well as making subtle changes to the doors and aero packages to solve the fire problem.
Gone are the days of drivers just stating their opinions of how they would do things and then just walking off with a shrug. Now, as Harvick states, if a driver has an opinion, they need to sit in a room and express it and come to the meetings because, at this point, it’s all about helping NASCAR create a better, safer sport. He compares it to Dale Earnhardt gathering drivers up when an issue arose back in the 90s and working with NASCAR to fix the problem. He states that the communication between drivers and NASCAR is the best and most transparent it has ever been in his career.
The Penalty Process
Next, Kenny asks Harvick his thoughts on the recent spike in penalties and fines dished out by NASCAR. Harvick responds by stating that the initial intent was to stop some of the “garbage.” It was to make a statement.
As Harvick states in the interview, unless an example is made and the teams know that penalties are a real threat, teams were going to just keep pushing the envelop to outrageous proportions. He then explains that he’s coming at it from a different angle than the teams or even NASCAR.
The NASCAR Rule Book is largely a collaborative effort between the teams and the governing body. From a driver’s perspective, Kevin Harvick thinks that for the NextGen car to “work” with its intended purpose, NASCAR has to be strict and come down hard on teams. If something isn’t supposed to be modified in the slightest and a team modifies it, it’s a clear black and white violation of the NASCAR Rule Book and NASCAR needs to bring down the hammer on the team to assure that it doesn’t happen again to the best of their ability.
He says that the NASCAR owners asked for this car and they asked for “tougher rules” and they “can’t have it both ways.” So, NASCAR has to be harsh on their penalties and they need to distribute them liberally.
The NextGen Car
When Kenny Wallace transitions to open up the can of worms that is the NextGen car, he is sure to phrase it differently than Tony Stewart who was one of the owners begging for the car to be implemented.
Herman asks Harvick point blank “Do you like this car? If you were to design it, is this the way you would have designed this car?” Harvick fires back with an equally blunt, “I would not have designed it this way.”
Kenny then asks him how he would have designed it and Harvick said that the question was a “loaded gun.” To avoid getting himself into trouble, Harvick compares the NextGen car to the Gen5 car, aka, The Car of Tomorrow (COT). He says that when the COT was first implemented, it was “the biggest piece of crap” to ever race in a NASCAR race. After briefly poking fun of the initial wing on the back of the car, Harvick states that all they did for the five years that followed was try to fix the COT. He foresees the same with the NextGen.
He states simply that the car has not performed the way everybody expected it to. Much of the aerodynamics are made on the bottom and the car didn’t initially crash well. While Harvick admits that much of the latter issue has been fixed, it’s still far from ideal. The main thing that needs to be done to the NextGen car, according to Harvick, is that it just needs to race better. He admits that many of the aspects and theories behind the car are “neat,” particularly liking the way it shifts.
He also says that none of it matters until the racing can be fixed. He goes on to say that fixing the racing will be making the tire falloff better and fixing the car’s aerodynamics.
As for how Harvick himself would have designed the NextGen car, he states that the way it was designed was more with a sports car mentality and that was a mistake. He states that the biggest hurtle in “fixing” the NextGen car as compared to the COT is that at least with the latter, if an issue arose, the teams would go to their own shops and fix whatever issue they needed to. Now that is not possible. It’s a long, long process that involves the manufacturer, NASCAR, the single-source supplier, rules would need to be changed, etc.
Kenny Wallace then theorizes that the reason that the NextGen car was designed in the first place was because the owners were won over by the likes of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, who are used to the standardized chassis of INDYCAR. Harvick says that he just tries to stay driver specific and focus on the drivers side of things. He ends that conversation by saying that the theories behind the car is correct, it will just take a little longer than expected to get the racing up to snuff.
Covid Brought Positive Changes To The Industry
Kenny and Kevin then end their conversations by talking about how the Covid-19 pandemic actually helped the sport in a lot of ways. NASCAR started cutting costs by not being at the tracks as long which has helped drivers like Harvick in spending more time with their families. Can’t put a price on that, I suppose. But he also states that Covid and the amount of money the government of North Carolina put into renovating tracks like North Wilkesboro is a direct reason as to why the sport is going into a sort of old school/new skool marriage of sorts.
Who am I to argue with a great like Kevin Harvick? I think he was mostly right with everything he said. The only area where I would somewhat disagree is a portion of the discussion about the NextGen car. I don’t personally like the car because it took some of the craft out of building NASCAR racecars. There’s not much art in it anymore. But I will admit that it seems to have helped the intermediate package, not harmed it though the quality of racing on short tracks leaves something to be desired. What do you think, Daily Downforce readers? Do you largely agree with Kevin Harvick or do you think he is WAY off base? Comment and let us know on all of our social media platforms!