Saturday, March 2, 2024

Kevin Harvick: “It’s been a great ride, so I don’t have anything to complain about”

After Kevin Harvick‘s legendary NASCAR Cup Series career has officially come to a close. Although he did not score a win in his final season, a seventh-place finish in his last race at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday was still the swan song he could have hoped for.

Harvick is perhaps the most successful driver at Phoenix with nine wins and riding a twenty-race streak of top-ten finishes entering Sunday. He finished second in Stage #1 and led twenty-three laps before finishing seventh, a more than capable performance while much of the headlines revolved around the championship battle; his pace, which brought fans to their feet, perhaps could have won him the race if not for slow pit stops late.

Prior to the race, the entire Cup Series grid honoured him with a special ceremony. Other honours throughout the year included Homestead-Miami Speedway renaming its race to the 4EVER 400, while Harvick returned to his old #29 for the All-Star Race.

While a final start is always an emotional moment, Harvick admitted he felt more “relief” than any other emotion upon taking the checkered flag.

“There was just so much going on before the race and this week, but it was pretty cool to lead some laps there in the last race,” said Harvick. “I’m just proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, everybody that works on this car and has worked on this car for a long time. I’ve just got to thank all the fans and NASCAR and my family and everybody for all of the support. It’s been a great ride and I can’t complain.

“The fans have been great wishing us well to do the best that we can on the race track. It’s been an up and down year, but we’ve had some good runs and we were at least competitive. We didn’t ride around in the back so that’s the main thing, just doing all that we can do.

“The emotions are kind of over at this particular point. This was a tough week with everything going on and lots to do. I think, for me, it’s been a great ride, so I don’t have anything to complain about. I’m just happy that we got to this point and kind of closed the book on our own. This whole year has been incredible with the fans and the garage and everybody for all the support. We wanted to tell a story for thirty years and I think we did a pretty good job with that.”

With his twenty-third and last Cup campaign in the books, he finished thirteenth in points with fourteen top tens, six top fives, and a best finish of second at Darlington. Although SHR was one of the top organisations in the 2010s, winning the the 2014 championship with Harvick in his first season with them, their performance has declined since the turn of the decade. He won nine times in 2020, but went winless in two of the next three years. Despite this decline, Harvick was seemingly the lone bright spot for the team as the lone SHR driver to make the 2023 playoffs.

His team-mate Aric Almirola also retired after 2023, meaning the team will enter a new era in 2024 with a pair of new drivers. Josh Berry will replace Harvick in the #4 Ford Mustang.

“It really hasn’t been about wins or losses, but you never want to flop around, so to be able to lead laps in the last race kind of tells you how competitive we still are,” Harvick stated. “I think with some tweaks and adjustments to some of the things at Stewart-Haas, you could go right back out there and be where you need to be with everything that we have going on.

“Josh is going to do a great job. I can’t wait to see Josh drive this car around. Busch is still in this sport. Mobil is still in this sport. It gave everybody time to do and evaluate what they wanted to do and that’s really what I wanted. I wanted to leave here and be able to look at all you guys, look at the fans, walk in the TV booth and walk into any trailer in that garage, whether it’s a driver, a crew chief, NASCAR, whoever it is, and be able to end on good terms and I think we did that.”

Despite no longer being in the cockpit, Harvick will remain involved in the sport as a commentator for FOX Sports. His son Keelan is also pursuing a racing career of his own, while Harvick runs a management agency.

“Everything is already in place with everything that we have going on with television and businesses and Keelan’s racing and school,” he commented. “We’ve got so many things in motion with the next couple of years with plans and what we want to do, so we’re going to go back to work. I do already have calls next week with the folks from FOX and starting to work on end of the year things for what we want to do there, but I still think the responsibility is just as big to go up there and try to give the fans as much information as possible and do a good job for FOX and everybody with this sport to tell the best story that we can. We have a lot of great drivers, a lot of great personalities and I hope everybody gets to see that.”

Harvick ends his Cup career with 826 starts, sixty wins, thirty-one poles, and a championship. His accolades also include forty-seven wins and two titles in the Xfinity Series, along with fourteen Craftsman Truck Series victories.