Kevin Harvick Retiring after 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Season

Kevin Harvick drives the No. 4 Busch Light Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang - Anne Proffit photo
Kevin Harvick drives the No. 4 Busch Light Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang – Anne Proffit photo

Kevin Harvick is hanging up his helmet. The 47-year-old Bakersfield, Calif. native who was thrust onto the national NASCAR Cup Series stage with the death of Dale Earnhardt in February of 2001, has decided this 2003 season will be his final one. He’ll retire after the season finale on November 5th at Phoenix Raceway.

“I’ve sought out people and picked their brains,” about the timing of his retirement from full-time racing. “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,” explained the driver of Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 4 Ford Mustang. 

Just this week Harvick announced his participation as one of the Solid Rock Carriers late model CARS Tour’s collection of NASCAR veterans and team owners who have teamed up to purchase the series. He joins NASCAR standout drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton, along with Trackhouse Racing team owner and former driver Justin Marks in that endeavor. That announcement prefaced this one by just a few days and had many in the industry wondering when the next footfall would take place.

“It’s definitely been hard to understand when that right moment is, because we’ve been so fortunate to run well,” Harvick said. “But sometimes there are just other things going on that become more important and, for me that time has come,” Harvick confirmed.

Harvick with wife DeLana, Keelan and Piper – Stewart-Haas Racing photo

Married to DeLana and the father of 10-year-old Keelan and five-year-old Piper, Harvick has assumed the mantle of “The Closer.” He begins his final season of competition in NASCAR’s premier Cup Series tied for ninth on the all-time win list, with 60 points-paying victories. He’s just 99 laps away from leading 16,000 laps in his career, one of only 11 drivers in the history of Cup Series competition to do so. Harvick’s 800th Cup Series start takes place on April 23rd at Talladega Superspeedway.

In addition to his partial ownership of the CARS Tour, Harvick is eyeing a lot more family time, particularly with both of his children happily competing in karts. Keelan, in fact, has been racing on the international scene. “In the last year,” Harvick said, “I think I’ve seen Keelan race three times while he’s been in Europe. I go to the go-kart track with Piper and she makes twice as many strides in a day while I’m there than she would in a day when I’m not there. It takes a lot of time to organize the level of racing they’re doing, and to be around that is important to me.”

Harvick with Keelan, Piper and one of their go-karts – Stewart-Haas Racing photo

Karts are integral to the Harvick family, as that’s where the patriarch got his start, at age five, on Southern California racetracks. He advanced to compete and win on NASCAR’s Southwest Tour, earned the 1998 NASCAR Winston West title, then went to NASCAR’s Truck Series and then the Xfinity Series with Richard Childress Racing (RCR), earning three wins in his  2000 rookie year. The move to RCR propelled the Californian to Cup Series competition, under the most trying circumstances – a move that carried intense pressure for the then-25-year-old.

Asked to fill the immense void left when Earnhardt died on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, Harvick rose to the occasion, debuting a week later , driving a No. 29 rather than Earnhardt’s No. 3, at Rockingham, where he finished 14th from 36th on the grid after a one-day rain delay. The following race was at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Harvick used that venue to marry DeLana on a Wednesday, race in both Xfinity and Cup Series on the weekend and score his first top 10 result, eighth in Sin City. In only his third Cup Series contest, a week later at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Harvick won his first race.

“Dale’s passing changed our sport forever, and it changed my life forever and direction it took. It took me a long time to really get comfortable to even think about things that happened that day,” Harvick reminisced. “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.”

Harvick raced with RCR through to the close of the 2013 season, winning four races in the No. 29 RCR Chevrolet with Budweiser partnership in that final year and his 14th season working with the team from Welcome, N.C., then left to join Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2014 season, driving the No. 4 Chevrolet (the team changed to Ford power in 2017). That relationship has extended through to this final year of competition for the Californian. In 2014 he won the Cup Series championship together with crew chief Rodney Childers. Harvick and Childers cemented their relationship in 2014 by earning the victory in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and earning that long-coveted Cup Series title.

Harvick and Childers talk on pit road – Stewart-Haas Racing photo

“Rodney and I are pretty much the same age with very similar backgrounds as far as racing goes,” Harvick related. “But we’re opposites in that he’s very calm, cool and quiet, and I’m kind of rambunctious and full of excitement. That pairing has brought a lot of respect because I know his demeanor and he knows my demeanor… and it’s a good balance in the middle. We know each of us can do the job, and we believe in that, and each other. 

Harvick is comfortable in front of a microphone – but happier in a race car as “The Closer” – Anne Proffit photo

“A lot of that comes down to conversations, being able to communicate,” Harvick continued. “We communicate well, and that’s what makes a good pairing – being able to talk and communicate, and to put those conversations into action. And when you’re wrong, understanding when you’re wrong and working through that, and not have everybody’s feelings get hurt and start point fingers, that’ what’s made it work!”

Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart wanted to have Kevin Harvick on his team because of how the duo raced one another while the three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion was still earning his keep on the tour. “I competed against Kevin for a long time, and I was so happy to finally have him as a part of our race team,” Stewart said. “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.”

Harvick will start his final NASCAR Cup Series season attempting to win a second title as he exits this playing field, with the non-points Busch Light Clash act at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 4-5. The official start of the 2023 campaign begins with the 65th annual Daytona 500 on February 19th, on the Daytona International Speedway oval in Florida.

About Anne Proffit 1264 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

1 Comment on Kevin Harvick Retiring after 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Season

  1. I have no respect for this guy since during a post race interview with Brad K he sneaked up behindBrad while he was being interviewed and punched him in the back and than ran off like a little girl. And I’m no Brad fan either.

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