Kevin Harvick will call it a career after one more season in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday morning this would be Harvick’s final run in the No. 4 Ford Mustang. The Athletic first reported Harvick’s decision.
In early December, the 47-year-old Harvick admitted a decision about his future would be made before the season started in Daytona. Harvick is in a contract year with Stewart-Haas.
“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 entered the series under challenging circumstances, named the replacement for Dale Earnhardt after his death in the 2001 Daytona 500. Richard Childress repainted the car and changed the number to No. 29 for Harvick, who was competing for him in the Xfinity Series.
Three weeks after Earnhardt’s death and in Harvick’s third start, he won at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Since then, Harvick has been a consistent winner in the Cup Series and undoubtedly a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
“Dale’s passing changed our sport forever, and it changed my life forever and the direction it took,” said Harvick. “It took me a long time to really get comfortable to really even think about things that happened that day.
“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 has won races across all three NASCAR national series and a championship in both the Xfinity Series (2001, 2006) and Cup Series (2014).
Entering the 2023 season, Harvick’s 60 career wins tie him for seventh on the all-time wins list. It will be his 23rd season in the series.
Harvick spent 13 seasons driving for Richard Childress, winning 23 races. Harvick has 37 wins at Stewart-Haas Racing going into his 10th season with the organization.
“Rodney and I are pretty much the same age with very similar backgrounds, as far as racing goes,” Harvick said of his crew chief Rodney Childers. “But we’re kind of 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 just because I know his demeanor, 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, and a lot of that comes down to conversations, being able to communicate. We communicate well, and that’s what makes a good pairing — being able to talk and communicate and put those conversations into action. And when you’re wrong, understanding when you’re wrong, and working through that and not have anybody’s feelings get hurt and start pointing fingers That’s what’s made it work.”
Leaving the sport allows Harvick to be there for his children. Both 10-year-old son Keelan and 5-year-old daughter Piper also have racing interests.
“In the last year, I think I’ve seen Keelan race three times while he’s been in Europe,” Harvick said. “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.”
Team co-owner Tony Stewart paid tribute to his on-track rival who became an integral part of his team.
“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, the three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion who co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas. “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.
“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.”