Short-track etiquette – what’s OK and what isn’t in this day and age?
“It depends on how mad you are. I think a lot of that just depends on the situation. When you’re not running well, there’s a lot more that’s OK in your mind because the day’s screwed up anyway and you feel like you want to run into somebody just to take your aggression out on the day. A lot of that just depends on who you’re racing and how that guy’s raced you that day, if you’ve had trouble and you’re trying to get back to the front and it’s late in the race, or at the end of a stage – it’s just different things at different times that are OK. In the end, it’s just like every other race, you’ve got to somehow be able to get to the finish with the best result you can get that day.”
Where did you learn short-track etiquette, and is it still applicable today?
“It’s applicable, and a lot of times there are still a lot of guys who don’t apply it and they wind up getting themselves in trouble – tearing their cars up and putting themselves in a bad spot. I think part of our success is being able to race like that when we need to race like that and understanding how that works. In my book, it’s just being smart. In today’s day and age, a lot of it is just go as hard as you can go and screw the other guy. In the end, there are a lot of guys who think that way, but there are a lot of guys who tear their stuff up, too. So, it’s a fine line, but you have to go on the restarts in today’s world. You have to just throw caution to the wind on the restarts because that’s when most of it happens. Once we get strung out and get to the racing part of it, that’s usually when you have to apply some of that and there is some give-and-take. But on the restarts, I would say all those rules go out the window because of how important the restarts are in today’s world.”
Who were the elder statesmen you learned from when you started racing in the NASCAR Cup Series?
“A lot of that I would credit to Richard Childress just because of the fact he put so much emphasis on finishing races. I think most of that comes from the RCR mentality when I started of you have to finish the race, no matter what the cost or what you have to do, you have to finish the race. I would say that’s where most of that came from.”
What is it about short tracks that makes you passionate about racing?
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to do a lot of things and, really, the thing that’s made me most passionate lately is racing with my son, Keelan, just because of the fact it makes me realize why I love racing. And being able to go and see people learn and being able to help people – that’s something I really enjoy, not only with Keelan, but being able to help the other kids. Sometimes it’s just the simplest things like steering wheel height, or pedal height – there are so many little things you do on a daily basis that you don’t even think about anymore. That has really reminded me why I love racing and why I love what I do. But being able to share that knowledge with people, whether it’s go-karters, or Cup racers, or whoever it is, that’s something I get a lot of satisfaction out of.”
When you provide help like that, does it give someone who maybe was uncomfortable in a racecar an “aha” moment?
“It’s steps, right? Whatever that situation is, it gets them comfortable to be able to progress to their next ‘aha’ moment. In the progression, there are a whole bunch of those moments that lead to a point where you can race at a high level. When you look at Brent Crews, who’s won like 12 national karting championships and is now running midgets and sprint cars, it’s obvious he can drive. He’s an amazing talent who can do anything he wants to do, as long as he learns how to be a professional. In going from the short-track side of things and the dirt side of things, whatever you race, that step when you get to whatever it is from the Cup side, the Xfinity side, the Truck Series, even on down into the K&N and ARCA stuff, it’s really about learning how to be a professional, and that comes with doing the sponsor stuff, it comes with being able to speak well, it comes with how to handle yourself on social media and off the racetrack, and looking at data when it comes to being inside the car and being able to communicate with your crew chief and your team and the people around you. There are so many elements to it, and when you look at a kid like Brent, he’s got all the talent, he’s going to be able to be taught how to drive whatever it is he has to drive. It’s how does he handle all those things outside the driving side of it that really makes or breaks you when you get to a high level of racing.”
You mentioned the sponsor side of the sport – can you talk about your longstanding relationship with Hunt Brothers Pizza, as the 2021 season marks the 12th year of your partnership with them?
“Our fans are pretty loyal to the brands that are on our cars. Many of my pictures come from the standees in the store. People take selfies next to them. There are a number of reasons you have sponsorships – you want that brand recognition, the brand integration. Hunt Brothers Pizza is a very family-oriented company and we’re a very family-oriented group. Those relationships you build through the years with brands that recognize and reflect what you believe in are few and far between. We’ve grown with the Hunt Brothers Pizza brand. They’ve grown with us and been very loyal to us and I think our fans are very loyal to Hunt Brothers Pizza. It’s fun to see that brand recognition and that understanding of loyalty and partnership. You realize how many Hunt Brothers Pizza stores there are as you drive to racetracks.”
(Hunt Brothers Pizza is the nation’s largest brand of made-to-order pizza in the convenience store industry and has sponsored Harvick for years in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Hunt Brothers Pizza joined Harvick fulltime in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2019 and has been a mainstay in NASCAR’s premier division ever since. With more than 7,800 locations in 30 states, Hunt Brothers Pizza offers original and thin-crust pizzas available as a grab-and go Hunk, perfect for today’s on-the-go lifestyle or as a customizable whole pizza that is an exceptional value with All Toppings No Extra Charge®. Celebrating 30 years of serving great pizza to convenience store shoppers through its store partners, Hunt Brothers Pizza is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, and is family owned and operated. To find a Hunt Brothers Pizza location near you, download the app by visiting app.HuntBrothersPizza.com.)