TAMPA — In less than a month, NASCAR's Sprint Cup series returns to Florida for the CokeZero 400 in Daytona Beach. Driver Kevin Harvick made a local pit stop Tuesday, touring MacDill Air Force Base then ducking over to Tropicana Field for the ceremonial first pitch before the Rays game.
Harvick took questions from military staff and their families at MacDill ("Can you please sign my NASCAR video game?" for instance) and also took time to talk with reporters about his season, his tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueler and his newly shaven face.
What are you most curious about when you're talking with these guys about the aircraft and their roles here at MacDill?
It's always interesting to see how other people relate to their jobs. Sitting in their environment in the cockpit, I'm sure there's a lot of similarities with what we do. … There's a lot more up there in their cockpit for them to handle. … It's been an informative day and I've enjoyed being around them.
Do you have any desire to fly yourself?
I've never flown my own plane, so I don't know that I need to be sitting up there. But I enjoy the technical side of what they do and how they do things. My favorite part of any military feature, aside from the people themselves, is how clean and organized everything is. I like things clean and organized, and they don't get any cleaner or more organized than they are in any branch of the military.
You've had a beard for a bit as part of Budweiser's "Grow One" campaign. Did you shave because you were coming to a military base?
I just got tired of itching it. I came home from Pocono and shaved it right off. I put in my four weeks for the Bud Grow One campaign and did my part. … It always surprises me the way people react, but I didn't know it was going to be something people would actually talk about. Last week, I got called Jimmie (Johnson) more times than I want to, so I went home with the urge to shave it off.
How would you characterize your season so far — you're sixth in the point standings, but no wins and a pair of second-place finishes.
It's been a strange year. I feel like we've run well everywhere but Richmond and Martinsville. We've run well; we haven't finished well. That's out of character for what we do usually. … We just haven't been able to finish the races off this year. We've made moves, but all the moves we've made seem to have not been right. That stuff goes in cycles.
Tell us about your plans for the rest of the day.
Today is part of our Daytona Winner's Circle appearance. NASCAR requires us to do three of those a year. They schedule us to do cool things like this at least. That makes it fun to come do things you wouldn't normally do. We're here to promote the Coke 400. That's about it. (Rest of day?) I don't even know. (First pitch at Rays?) Oh, yeah, we're going to a baseball game and going to throw out the first pitch. I've done quite a few of those actually. I played baseball when I was in junior high, but that's the last time I played baseball. I'm along for the ride, here to do what's needed of me.