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Riding Shotgun with 2007 Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick celebrates with his wife, DeLana, after

Kevin Harvick celebrates with his wife, DeLana, after winning the Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, on Saturday, February 6, 2010. Photo Credit: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/MCT

In one of the closest finishes in Daytona history, Kevin Harvick beat Matt Kenseth to win the 2007 Daytona 500. Daytona happens to be good to Harvick. He's also won the last two Bud shootouts in the Sunshine State. We caught up with Harvick two days before this year's big race.

Trading Paint: What's the atmosphere like at the Daytona 500?

Kevin Harvick: There is more focus on everything, from top to bottom. The hype, the media, the driver introductions. Whatever it is, there is more attention paid to it. Everything is built up more. It's our biggest race of the year. I remember driving through the tunnel for the first time. I had never been to a track longer than a mile. You roll in and see the size of it, and then see how narrow it is. It's eye-opening. It's one of those places, with all the history, that is just special.

TP: Do people always ask you about winning the Daytona 500?

KH: Absolutely. Every time you go somewhere, everyone wants to talk about winning the Daytona 500. The magnitude of the event, the amount of people who watch it, everyone knows the Daytona 500. No one asks me about the Brickyard 400 or winning the Rookie of the Year. Everyone wants to know about winning the Daytona 500.

TP: What do you recall about your win at Daytona?

KH: We actually got into a little bit of trouble with about 25 to laps to go, I just remember kind of throwing caution to the wind. We were able to get into the right position and miss the last wreck or two and make our way through the track. After the reset on the last red flag. we were sixth or seventh and everything just played out perfectly. They were wrecking behind us and we managed to win by a little bit.
 
TP: I heard you were a very good wrestler in high school. That your wrestled at about 130 pounds and competed all four years in high school. Has that helped you as a driver?

KH: Wrestling was a huge help for everything I do now. It's you against the other guy and mentally that has prepared me well for racing, and for life. Wrestling helped me with everything in life. 
 
TP: What's your take on HBO's Jimmie Johnson 24/7 series?

KH: I think it turned out really good. It's a sneak peak into his life. Jimmie's a normal guy and I think they did a good job of showing that. I also think it showed a lot of people the type of high tech equipment that is used. I think a lot people just think of it as a garage. But we use state of the art equipment and technology. The show did a good job of showing that.
 
TP: How is Danica Patrick doing?

KH: I think she's doing fine. She just has to keep doing what she's doing. Experience will be the key to everything she does. Experience, learning, driving laps. That's the key. I think it's great for the sport and she has a great attitude about it. I think that's why everybody has been very helpful. Everybody realizes that she's great for the sport and she brings are new fans.

New York Sports