By David Morgan, Associate Editor
AVONDALE, Ariz. – When the checkered flag waves on Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series championship finale at Phoenix Raceway, it will mark the end of one chapter for Kevin Harvick and the start of another.
After hanging up the helmet this weekend, Harvick will be moving into the TV booth in 2024 to join the NASCAR on FOX broadcast team during the first half of the season.
Barring a win on Sunday, Harvick will leave with an impressive resume with 60 wins to his name since climbing behind the wheel in 2001, with victories in marquee races along the way, including the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Southern 500, and Brickyard 400.
He was also the first champion in the current elimination Playoff format in 2014, scoring the title in his first year with Stewart-Haas Racing. In addition, Harvick can also lay claim to two Xfinity Series championships in 2001 and 2006.
“It’s been a great ride and I think for me it’s something that I love to do and I think as you look back on it and realize all the things that you’ve been able to be a part of and be fortunate to be somewhat successful at, it’s been fun,” Harvick said.
“Obviously, I’m not going far. I guess I’ll just be sitting on the other side of the table asking the questions, but it’s been a great ride.”
As he visits each track for the final time this season, Harvick has been getting all of the much-warranted accolades thrown his way, but admitted now that the end is really here, the weekend at Phoenix certainly feels different knowing it’s really his final race.
Harvick explained that as the as the end of the season closed in, he leaned Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for some advice as Earnhardt went through a similar transition when he retired in 2017 and moved into the TV booth for NBC the following year.
“I think this week has been definitely different than everything leading up to this just because of the fact that there isn’t a next week,” Harvick said. “There’s been a next week up until this week. Look, it’s very different – the things that we have to do going forward, but it’s all planned out.
“I talked to Dale Jr., he was in a very similar situation where the TV piece of it was planned out. The race team piece of it is planned out. We have a management company. We have golf cart stores. All of those things are already functioning. I think it would be much different if you weren’t closing the book.
“I think, for me, I feel very fortunate to be able to open the book and obviously our first chapter was a little bit different than most people’s, but it’s the time that we chose to be able to say, ‘OK, this is it.’”
As he shifts into a new role going forward, Harvick explained that he is ready to be able to spend more time with his children as they start their own racing careers – using the lessons he has learned the hard way to keep both of them pointed in the right direction, even if they might not want to hear it.
“The one thing that I tell Keelan is, I always tell him I’m like, we’ll get into some sort of disagreement of why you should do something or why you shouldn’t do something. He’ll say, ‘Well, you did this or you did that.’ And I’ll tell him, ‘That’s exactly why I’m sitting here telling you not to do that,” Harvick said with a grin.
“If you’ll just shut up and listen, I’ll make you better.’ It’s not very hard. I’ve already been down this road and I’ve already made this mistake and, really, that’s one of the great advantages that we have from the management side is if you’ll just listen.
“I’m not telling you this is how you have to do it, but just listen to me and then you take it and you evolve from there, but don’t make the simple mistakes.”
While he is the last of a generation of drivers that were the face of NASCAR throughout the past two decades, Harvick noted that he is leaving the driving corps in capable hands with the current generation ready to take the helm into the future.
“I think guys like Joey Logano are gonna be great leaders,” Harvick said. “They already are. You see some of the younger guys start to speak up in the meetings and I can’t wait to continue to be a part of those meetings as we go forward and listen to it evolve and grow and change and see who the new leaders become because that’s the process and that’s how it works.
“There’s a lot of really good racers and now I think you’ll see guys evolve into leaders that you might not have expected, so that will be fun for everybody to watch and learn, but you’ve also got some guys that have been here a while that will do a good job.”
He added that being able to race with this current generation of drivers will only aid him in the TV booth as he will be able to take his experiences with them and portray that to the television audience next season and beyond.
“I think I’m very fortunate to have raced in the previous generation to come through with the guys that I did and now, really for me, I’m at a fortunate spot to be able to see the whole next generation starting,” Harvick said.
“You have some really young guys that are in their early thirties, late twenties, mid-twenties and now I get to take that and have raced against most all those guys that are gonna be here for a long time and go up in the TV booth and I already know them all and have raced against them and have a relationship with them.”