• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

DeLANA HARVICK, Part 2

Two weeks ago I posted Part One of my lengthy interview with DeLana Harvick. Kevin's wife is very involved in the management of Kevin Harvick Inc., their Craftsman Truck and Busch Series teams. Ron Hornaday Jr. won this year's Truck title in the Harvick's Camping World Chevrolet Silverado. DeLana began her formal racing career as two-time Busch champion Randy LaJoie's public relations person.

Here's the conclusion of our conversation: (Championship photo of Kevin and DeLana courtesy of KHI/CIA.)

Q. What about the perception some people have that KHI is basically a Richard Childress team?
A. Obviously, there’s going to be some information that transfers because Kevin’s in both cars. He can’t be involved in RCR and not have some knowledge that he brings back. But that really couldn’t be further from the truth because we do everything (except engines) in-house. I’m proud we have our own body shop, we have our own paint shop, everything else is done in-house. I think that’s probably the biggest misconception, that we’re just a satellite team for RCR. Although Richard’s been very helpful, especially with advice, we’re pretty proud of what we’ve done on our own.

Q. Do you give your drivers PR advice?
A. Absolutely. If there’s an article that comes out, and I think there was one (where) Ron wasn’t happy with how a quote came out. He called me pretty upset and I talked through it with him. PR is my first love and I think that’s what I do best. I think that’s helpful to Kevin, and certainly, with newcomers like Cale Gale. I try to introduce him to all the players in the sport because it’s my hope he’s going to be around a long time. With a new kid coming from Mobile, Ala., who races a late model, he doesn’t understand the day-to-day duties the guys in NASCAR, the time that is needed to do these things. We’ve got him going to schools, to hospitals, just to get him used to being in public and around people and speaking.

I feel like I do have an influence over our drivers. Obviously, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, they don’t need advice from me. I think that’s what I get excited about, the kids coming up, like Cale Gale, I feel like I can be a benefit.

Q. What about when Kevin is in a controversial situation, like with Juan Pablo Montoya at Watkins Glen?
A. As a wife, I’m watching my husband having a pretty heated discussion with someone else. On the same token, I’m watching Kevin kind of through a PR person’s eyes, and I see the passion. Just a couple of years ago, he would have had him in a choak-hold, or done something a little more abrupt. I’ve seen Kevin grow so much. I think a lot of that has to do with KHI and owning his own team.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong, if you’re mad about something, tell somebody, you don’t have to be so politically correct that you’re vanilla. I never want to see that, even for my own drivers. I think, obviously, there’s a line you can’t cross, but I was happy to see that he was so passionate. That cost us a lot of points that day and we were coming down to the wire of the Chase and every point matters. If that had happened, and he wasn’t passionate about it, I don’t think I would have been as happy with him because the passion is what I love so much about Kevin.

Q. Teresa Earnhardt took a lot of criticism for not reaching an agreement to keep Dale Jr. at DEI. As a female team owner, and a PR person, what was your reaction to the media coverage and fan reaction?
A. The hard part about this sport is you have to make decisions on a daily basis and sometimes they’re not popular decisions, whether they're budget-driven, or personnel-driven. It’s unfortunate because the sport has grown to the point that, sometimes, these things plays out in the media.

The part I think everyone has to remember is, there’s always another side to the story. Obviously, we see the outcome of these situations. When you’re not there, on a day-to-day basis, and you don’t know everything that has transpired, it’s hard for me to accept people making opinions about that because they’re not informed. They're fed little bits of what the people involved want to feed them.

I hope I’ve matured a little bit, even in my personal life, where I realize there’s so much more to a situation than the final outcome. I think I put those pieces in play when determining how I feel about a situation. Whether it’s KHI related, or even my personal life. I just know, typically, there’s three sides to every story.

Q. You are the only wife who wears a fire-resistant uniform during the race. Why?
A. When we lost Dale (Earnhardt) and Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin, there was a big safety push in NASCAR. As a wife, I asked Kevin, ‘What are you doing to be safer?’ I became really interested in the safety aspect. We were talking about this one night and he said, ‘What are you doing to be safe?’ I never really thought about that. There’s a lot of moving parts and pieces that go on on pit road and I’m actually pretty astonished that more people don’t do it on their own, but they’re not required to wear some fire-safety protection. The pit boxes have gotten to be such monstrosities that, if something were to happen quickly, I couldn’t get out of harm’s way. I’m pretty much stuck.

I felt like it was only fair when I’m asking Kevin to do everything he possibly could to be safe in the car. Turnabout is fair play and I should do everything I can do to be safe on pit road and I felt that was a good solution.
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Bobby Labonte recently joined the ranks of drivers who get into the PR-marketing business. His company is called Breaking Limits, LLC. I find this interesting because I was part of a brief, and not very serious, attempt by Mario Andretti's then-manager back in 1987 to trade on Andretti's name by offering to provide such services. Several companies were "pitched." I remember a few corporate representatives came to me, privately, and expressed concern that their business would always play second fiddle to Andretti's own sponsors. The idea never really went anywhere, partially for this reason.

In 1988, Al Holbert had a similar idea. We were deep into planning a partnership when Al was killed in a private plane crash.

I couldn't help but notice this language in Labonte's news announcement (emphasis mine):

"Breaking Limits mission is to go above and beyond expectations for every partner with business professionals that have the integrity, morals and values that Labonte encompasses."

Wonder if a copy of the release reached Chip Williams?
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Wire reports last week said Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson compared his Democratic rivals to NASCAR drivers. (!)

"It's like they're all in training for the NASCAR, you know, nothing but a left turn, just steady as she goes, all the way around," Thompson was quoted as saying.

Thompson, a former Tennessee senator, wasn't knocking NASCAR or its fans, traditionally a friendly audience. Meanwhile, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani campaigned at the Cup finale at Homestead.
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Here's a link to my column in last Friday's Arizona Republic. It's a look at the state-of-play among the four Nextel Cup series automakers:
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/1122racingnb1123.html
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If you didn't see this article in the October Esquire, "A plan to rescue sports journalism from the same sorry fate that has befallen the regular news," here's a link:
http://www.esquire.com/features/chuck-klostermans-america/klosterman1007
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AARWBA will offer an audio-visual tribute to Bill France Jr., Wally Parks and Shav Glick at the 38th All-America Team ceremony. That's Saturday, January 12, at the downtown Indianapolis Hyatt. I'm the dinner chairman. A new element of the evening will be a pre-reception news conference, featuring brief announcements from various team, sponsor and industry representatives. Officially, that will be the Shav Glick Newsmakers Forum. For more information on the dinner, go to http://aarwba.org/, or E-mail me.

Thank you to Judy Stropus, of Don Schumacher Racing, who organized a group of NHRA team/sponsor PR representatives to jointly sponsor the November AARWBA newsletter. Their message is a "thank you" and "happy holidays" to AARWBA media members.

Others, in other series, please take note.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]