Harvick cherishes long-awaited Earnhardt tribute

Harvick cherishes long-awaited Earnhardt tribute

Cup Series

Harvick cherishes long-awaited Earnhardt tribute


Kevin Harvick had waited for 17 years.

Upon grabbing his first win at Atlanta Motor Speedway since 2001 on Sunday night, Harvick thanked his No. 4 team for a dominant car. Then he said over the Stewart-Haas Racing team radio that he had something to do.

On the frontstretch, Harvick did a celebratory burnout and then drove to the end of pit road, turned his car in the opposite direction and drove alongside the grandstands with three fingers out the window.

Just as he had done in ’01 when he took over for Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing and took a grieving team to victory lane at the same track.

And after Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 last weekend in the No.3, Harvick said the back-to-back moments not only meant a lot but was ironic.

“You see that 3 back in victory lane and us back in victory lane tonight, it’s just almost – it’s just how it’s meant to be,” Harvick said. “To be able to do that celebration again, very similar to what we did in 2001, I’ve been waiting a long time because 2001 was very confusing. It was my first win and don’t feel like I remember really anything about it because it was just such a really confusing time in my life just on the racetrack and with Dale gone and getting in his car, not with my team that I had built over the last couple of years at RCR.

“And I raced so much in 2001 that you didn’t really see the repercussions of everything that had happened until 2002, and we were terrible in 2002.

“It was fun to be able to actually pay tribute and smile about what was going on in the night,” said Harvick. “[In 2002] not knowing if you should actually stick your hand out the window, if somebody was going to be offended or somebody was going to mad or whether it was the right thing to do or wrong thing to do and it was your first win. There was just a lot of confusing things.

“So it felt good to pay tribute to that and park it in victory lane with a smile on my face and watch everybody smile with me.”

After taking over the car at RCR, Harvick drove for the team from 2001-2013 and earned 23 wins.

Such a celebration should have come much sooner for Harvick as Atlanta has been his personal playground the past few years. On Sunday, he led 181 of 325 laps. But in the previous six races, Harvick had led 835 laps with two poles and no wins. With Sunday’s performance, Harvick has now led 1,152 laps at Atlanta in 28 starts.