Former Champ Talked Trucks on Dirt, Tony Stewart’s Role as Track Owner and a Possible Post-Driving TV Career
NCWTS Producer Shares Challenges of Producing a Race on Dirt
CHARLOTTE, NC – Former NASCAR champion and regular FOX Sports analyst Kevin Harvick joined FOX Business Network’s MORNINGS WITH MARIA today from the NASCAR RACE HUB studio to discuss Wednesday’s NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES race at Eldora Speedway, which airs on FOX Business Network live at 9:00 PM ET. He and co-host Dagen McDowell also discussed his increased visibility in the FOX Sports television booth and a possible on-camera career post-racing.
Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, has qualified for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and currently sits fourth in points. He is serving as a FOX NASCAR analyst for the Eldora race alongside Vince Welch and Michael Waltrip. Below are excerpts from Harvick’s interview. To watch the interview in its entirety, CLICK HERE.
Also below is a Q&A with Mark Smith, lead race producer for the NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES on FOX Sports. Smith, who possesses a wealth of dirt-racing production experience, played a pivotal role five years ago in helping acclimate FOX NASCAR’s production team to dirt racing.
McDowell: FOX Business is going to be broadcasting the Truck race on dirt. Please tell the viewers why they should be watching Wednesday night.
Harvick: “Wednesday night is a very unique event, just for the fact the national series hadn’t been on dirt in a very long time, but that’s really what built our sport, or was a part of building our sport into what it is today. To have the trucks go back to Eldora Speedway and race on dirt creates a very unique event. When you look at the Eldora Speedway, and really through the years — it’s been there for 50-some years and Tony Stewart owns Eldora Speedway. When they brought the trucks there, it brought this excitement to the series and the Truck Series going on dirt, and now it has become one of their marquee events. It’s a lot of fun to watch. You get a lot of dirt racers and a lot of the guys who have had to get better at dirt racing who didn’t have a lot of experience on the dirt who race trucks every week. It’s a great mix of dirt racers and every-week truck racers — and Kyle Larson and some of the Cup guys coming in to run as well.”
McDowell: Tony Stewart, as the owner of Eldora, is very dedicated to making sure that the track is in tip-top condition.
Harvick: “That’s really what Tony likes to do. He likes to sit on the tractor and make sure the race track is right. He’ll ride around, and if it doesn’t look right, he’ll plow it up, and the next thing you know, it won’t be as dusty and there’ll be a little moisture in the top of the race track or the bottom of the race track. Tony is very passionate about what he does with the race track, and that bleeds over into the racing. That’s really what has kept Eldora Speedway in the marquee dirt-racing spot. From sprint cars to dirt late models, there’ll be 60,000 people that roll through this race track over the two weeks …”
McDowell: Do you want to do TV full-time when you stop racing?
Harvick: “It is definitely something that I’d like to do, and FOX has allowed me to kind of dabble in sitting in a booth and doing different things in the studio. For me, it’s great because I can do my full-time job on Sunday racing the car, and on Saturdays (NASCAR XFINITY SERIES events) and sometimes Wednesday night at the dirt track, to sit up in the TV booth and get some experience while I’m actually still doing my real job.”
Q&A WITH FOX SPORTS NCWTS PRODUCER MARK SMITH:
On how the NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES race at Eldora Speedway has evolved over the five years from a production standpoint:
“We somewhat threw the kitchen sink at it in the first year with extra cameras, X-mo replay machines and more. Then we figured out that while it was one of our biggest races of the year, we still should treat it like every other race and not get away from what makes our broadcasts great – showing racing and not all the fancy bells and whistles.”
On the biggest challenge of producing a race on dirt versus pavement:
“The biggest challenge for me personally is not getting too excited for this event. I come from a dirt racing background, as does my director, Roger Vincent, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t circle this on the calendar every year. The other thing that is challenging to us in the production truck is not getting caught up in following the “dirt track” ringers. Each year there are a handful of guys that come in and try and steal the thunder from the weekly drivers, and most of them do well. We’ve had guys like Scott Bloomquist, Rico Abreu, Bobby Pierce and Tracy Hines — all excellent dirt racers in different types of cars. So far, none of them have completely succeeded. All four winners of this event have been NASCAR regulars.”
On how the race production itself is different from a regular race:
“Race production is a bit different because there are qualifying races, a last chance qualifying race and stage breaks. This year, stage breaks became the norm in our sport in all three national series, but we have been doing them at Eldora since the first Truck Series race there. The most important job we have comes during the qualifying races and the last-chance race — keeping viewers aware of who is in the race and who is not and why. This type of racing may not be self-explanatory to the weekly NASCAR viewer, but to the fans that attend their local short tracks each week, it is the norm, so we have to make sure everybody understands.”
On Smith’s dirt-racing production background:
“I grew up in upstate New York going to dirt races since I was a kid. The DIRT Modifieds was the series we saw the most. I actually worked for DIRT Motorsports prior to coming south in 1996, producing live races for them and a weekly magazine style show. Ironically, Roger Slack, who runs Eldora Speedway for Tony Stewart, worked at DIRT Motorsports as well, so we have known each other for years and stay in contact.”
On which driver has improved the most on dirt over the years:
“One driver starting to form some affection for the dirt is Matt Crafton. He seemingly has come into Eldora each year not being on anyone’s radar, but by the end of the night, he is right there in the top 10. Matt now has a dirt race team and has raced it during Speedweeks in February at various tracks in Florida.”
On whether any different cameras or equipment are needed on dirt:
“This year we have added the ‘Visor Cam’ that FOX debuted at Sonoma with Danica Patrick. Chase Briscoe will wear that and help provide some great views as to what it’s like racing on the dirt. The biggest things viewers will see is how rough a ride it is on dirt and also where he is looking while behind the wheel. I think everyone will be surprised to see he might be looking to the right more than he does to the left, when that is the direction he wants the truck to go. And like last year, our resident dirt racer, Kenny Wallace, is back as part of our broadcast team. Kenny races up to 100 dirt races each year and brings a knowledge of the dirt that few have. He will be down on the ground, roaming the infield and in the turns, providing his insight up close.”