Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick surprised few before the NASCAR season by revealing that 2023 will be his final year in the Cup Series. Harvick, 47, is still nowhere near the top of his game, but a job awaits him in the Fox Sports broadcast booth, and he also has family and work considerations.
So, the goal is to chase more wins and maybe a second Cup Series championship while doing the rounds at NASCAR tracks on Sundays and maybe give fans cherished memories.
But Harvick has memories of his own, and he’ll get to know one this weekend at the All-Star Race.
It all started in 2001 for Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick’s arrival in the NASCAR Cup Series coincided with the sport’s last great tragedy: the death of Dale Earnhardt. Harvick finished third in points in the 2000 Xfinity Series season and prepared for another year in the No. 2 Chevy while Richard Childress found his place in the top series.
That changed with Earnhardt’s death on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Even though Childress removed the No. 3 Chevy and The Intimidator’s trademark black paint scheme, he still needed to get a new car right away. The team’s longtime owner asked Harvick to pull double duty for the rest of the season. He would go on to compete for the Xfinity Series title, but he would also drive the No. 29 Chevy on Sundays.
The decision paid off quickly. After completing 14y At Rockingham and the eighth in Las Vegas, Harvick won at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The rookie triumphed again mid-season at Chicagoland, and hasn’t looked back. He has 60 Cup Series victories, 47 in Xfinity cars, and 14 in the Truck Series.
Kevin Harvick will drive the No. 29 Ford in the NASCAR All-Star Race
Although the annual weekend just wrapped in Arlington, Kevin Harvick has a special throwback to his own chart at North Wilkesboro Speedway, the site of the NASCAR All-Star Race. He’ll put aside his usual No. 4 Ford and run the number “29” on his roof and doors.
Planning began just weeks after the conclusion of the future Hall of Famer’s 2022 season at Stewart-Haas Racing, and also included the signing of Richard Childress Racing, the team Harvick left after the 2013 season.
“I walked in and said, ‘Hey, this is what I want to do,’ and everyone from SHR was like, ‘Okay, let’s make this happen. But who will Richard contact? “
Harvick did not hesitate to entrust himself with this task.
“I called him on the phone, and he said, ‘Kevin, you can do whatever you want.'” We are in full support. You have had a great career and have done so much for RCR. And he did a lot for me. I can’t wait to take that picture with Richard, the crew chiefs and all the people I work with from RCR in North Wilkesboro.”
This will be a victory round whether he wins or not
Driving the No. 29 Chevy in 2001 was an experience like no other for Kevin Harvick. First, the death of Dale Earnhardt shocked the sporting world, then weeks of relevant news about investigations, safety reviews, and acclaim dominated racing news.
While the action wasn’t ignored on the track, it overshadowed much of it. Even Harvick’s two victories as a rookie are largely framed as victories for the man who replaced the legend. There wasn’t even time to produce the merchandise associated with Harvick and the No. 29 car until the latter stages of the season.
“We just had general stuff because everything happened so quickly, and we didn’t have time to properly celebrate the ’29’ in the RCR because he was always associated with Dale and everything that happened,” Harvick said. “And there was no emotion about that first win that I can remember other than that it was a huge moment for the sport.”
It’s a different atmosphere on the way out the door. Rookie days are history, and Harvick comes to the NASCAR tracks now as an older statesman. However, North Wilkesboro made him a bit dizzy.
“I don’t know the last time the All-Star Race was the most anticipated event of the season,” Harvick told NASCAR.com. “The fans are going to show up in droves. North Wilkesboro is a great short track, the asphalt is exhausted and I think it will be a great event.”
Have a question or comment about the race? John Moriello of Sportscasting does a column in the mailbag every Friday. Write to him on [email protected]