Even though Kevin Harvick did not finish his NASCAR Cup career in Victory Lane, he was still victorious in almost every other aspect, and as a result, winning the 2023 season finale on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway did not seem unrealistic.
Kevin Harvick assumed the emotional roller coaster of his last NASCAR Cup Series weekend as a driver was over—that is, until someone asked him about his kids after his final race was over at Phoenix Raceway.
Harvick’s son Keelan and daughter Piper were heard over the team radio during the pace laps prior to the start of Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway. The headsets were given to the two in order to wish their father well and congratulate him on his achievement after a Hall of Fame career.
“Well that’s not normal,” Harvick said. “I know that they probably loved that, so…”
That’s when Harvick started to get choked up. He turned to face his family, his team, and other people who had gathered at his car after giving a thumbs-up.
Harvick started to get choked up at that point. With a thumbs up, he turned to face his family, his team, and other people who had gathered at his car.
Saturday’s first qualifying round saw Harvick finish fastest. He went on to qualify third for the race and maintained his aggressiveness over the sPhoenix finale, battling it out with the four drivers aiming for the Cup series title.
On lap 93, Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford overtook championship rival William Byron to take the lead for the first time, almost eliciting a collective cheer from the grandstand patrons.
He held the lead until everyone was forced to take advantage of pit road tires and fuel as a result of Christopher Bell’s incident that triggered a caution. Following the restart, he led for four laps but was never to again contend for the top spot.
Eventually, Harvick finished seventh, bringing his incredible run of successive top-10 finishes to 21 races.
The 47-year-old driver kicked off his career in the Cup in 2001 after Dale Earnhardt passed away after a Daytona 500 last-lap crash. The following week, he assumed control of Earnhardt’s rebranded team at Richard Childress Racing.
His place in NASCAR history was secured three races later upon having won his first series victory in Atlanta following a close duel with Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon.
But unlike many of the young Cup stars of today, Harvick appeared to thrive in his later years, winning 32 of his 60 Cup victories after 2014, including his first Cup title at the age of 38 in 2014.
Harvick has 60 victories overall, including wins at the famed races that include the Southern 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, and Coca-Cola 600. Only Earnhardt, Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson have pulled off this feat in the history of NASCAR.
Despite finishing his final full-time season winless, Harvick maintained his drive to win. He was the only SHR driver to make it to the playoffs, and he pursued race wins multiple times during the calendar year.
Harvick still has a lot left in his NASCAR career despite retiring from his driving duties. Next season, he’ll be a part of Fox TV’s NASCAR broadcast team, working primarily in Xfinity and Trucks but also occasionally in the booth as a Cup race analyst.
Following Gordon’s exit from the booth at the end of the 2021 season, Fox has rotated guests to occupy the third spot, joining Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer.
Fox picks up a driver in Harvick who has a career worthy of the Hall of Fame and who has no qualms voicing his opinions on matters pertaining to NASCAR, such as safety, the need to change up the Cup schedule, and the value of local racing.
Additionally, Harvick now has enough time to nurture his kids who are in racing: an 11-year-old son named Keelan who has been successful in go-kart and Legends car racing, and a 5-year-old daughter named Piper who has also dabbled in racing.