By David Morgan, Associate Editor
The end of an era.
Kevin Harvick has been a mainstay in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2001 and on Thursday, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver announced that the 2023 season would be his last behind the wheel of the No. 4 Ford.
In the 22 years that Harvick has been competing at NASCAR’s highest level, he has remaining a consistent title contender season after season, winning 60 races along the way and capturing the 2014 series championship.
“There is absolutely nothing else in the world that I enjoy doing more than going to the racetrack, and I’m genuinely looking forward to this season,” said Harvick. “But as I’ve gone through the years, I knew there would come a day where I had to make a decision. When would it be time to step away from the car?
“I’ve sought out people and picked their brains. When I asked them when they knew it was the right time, they said it’ll just happen, and you’ll realize that’s the right moment. You’ll make a plan and decide when it’s your last year.
“It’s definitely been hard to understand when that right moment is because we’ve been so fortunate to run well. But sometimes there are just other things going on that become more important and, for me, that time has come.”
Harvick was thrust into the spotlight following the untimely passing of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500, with team owner Richard Childress selecting him to be the man to replace the legendary driver in the renumbered No. 29 car.
Just three races later, Harvick paid tribute to Earnhardt in the best way possible by winning at Atlanta in a photo finish with Jeff Gordon – a near mirror image of Earnhardt’s win in that same race a year earlier. The image of Harvick holding three fingers out of his driver’s side window as he celebrated has been cemented as one of the most iconic moments in the sport.
“Dale’s passing changed our sport forever, and it changed my life forever and the direction it took. It took me a long time to really get comfortable to really even think about things that happened that day,” Harvick said.
“Looking back on it now, you realize the importance of getting in the Cup car, and then we wound up winning my first race at Atlanta in the 29 car after Dale’s death. The significance and the importance of keeping that car on the racetrack and winning that race early at Atlanta – knowing now what it meant to the sport, and just that moment in general of being able to carry on, was so important.”
After 13 years with Richard Childress Racing, Harvick made the move over to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, teaming up with crew chief Rodney Childers to take his career to a whole new level. Since then, he has only finished outside the top-five in points once, continuing to add race wins to his already stellar resume.
Team co-owner and three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart noted that he saw Harvick’s competitive drive while racing against him over the years and knew he wanted to bring him into the fold to help continue his team’s upward trajectory.
“I competed against Kevin for a long time and I was so happy to finally have him a part of our race team,” said Stewart. “He’s incredibly reliable – consistent and calculated on the track with a drive to always be better. That’s what you want in a teammate. He knows what he needs to be successful, and his will to win helped elevate our entire company.”
Stewart went through his own farewell tour in 2016 and urged Harvick to enjoy his final season in the Cup Series before hanging up the helmet in November.
“I want Kevin to savor every lap this season, to compete like hell and to take it all in. He’s made all of us at Stewart-Haas Racing incredibly proud and we want to make his last season his best season.”