NASCAR Cup Series
28 Drivers Set to Double-Dip in Historic Week of Racing at North Wilkesboro
May 17, 2023
Kevin Harvick was all smiles this week as he walked around North Wilkesboro Speedway’s jam-packed infield. ‘Happy’ Harvick wasn’t necessarily pleased with his car’s speed in practice or how it handled, instead the veteran driver was thrilled to see one of the most historic racetracks in the country with nearly 150 race cars prepared to race across three events in two days.
Approaching retirement from the NASCAR Cup Series following the 2023 season, Harvick described Tuesday’s events at North Wilkesboro as the first step in his retirement and future beyond driving in NASCAR’s top division.
While he is part of the co-ownership group of the CARS Tour with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Justin Marks, Harvick is competing in the Window World 125 under the Kevin Harvick Inc. banner with his old No. 62 on the door and Cup Series crew chief Rodney Childers setting up the car.
While KHI shifted from running NASCAR Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series teams in 2011 and moved in the direction of athlete business management, Harvick’s involvement in the CARS Tour and his son Keelan’s interest in racing has brought race cars back under the KHI banner for the first time in over a decade.
Harvick has also been learning from his fellow CARS Tour co-owners and former competitors, Earnhardt Jr. and Burton. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver admitted he believed when he retired from full-time NASCAR competition that he would simply walk away from the sport in the second half of the season after his television commitments with FOX Sports, but through the influence of Earnhardt and Burton, as well as his son Keelan, the passion for racing was rekindled and he realized it was something he wanted to be involved in for a long time moving forward.
“For me, it’s really the first exercise in (my) post-driving (career) ... I did not want to race the car. That was something Dale talked me into.”
He admitted that Earnhardt convinced him the competitors in the field want to race against him, learn from him, and absorb all they can from a Cup Series champion and one of NASCAR’s top 75 drivers. He reiterated that to Harvick that his involvement in the series is not necessarily about winning or losing anymore, instead he had to look at the bigger picture.
“There’s just way more to it than a win or a loss this week,” he said. “It’s really more about being part of the event. Obviously, we want to build our cars to be competitive as we go forward and do what Dale has done with his late model team, but I don’t even know if that’s even possible this week with all that goes into it.”
As part of that approach, the goal of the new ownership group is to help elevate the drivers, crew members, officials, etc. for whatever may come their way in the future.
“How do we help prepare them for what is in the future? How do we help to be a bigger part of trying to expose the Josh Berry's of the world to the world? By just giving them a bigger platform and by just being around,” Harvick said.
In terms of the ownership role, Harvick spent the day on Tuesday walking through the garage and meeting as many people involved in the CARS Tour Series as possible.
“It’s important to take the momentum that we have with short track asphalt oval racing that we have at this particular time and grow it, but also not outgrow our competitors. I think the most important thing we talk about with our group is how do we keep it as much the same as possible for our racers and give it a bigger platform to show them off? We spend a lot of time with it.”
While Harvick still has roughly seven months left in his NASCAR Cup Series career, the veteran driver has set his post-driving career in motion already and he shows no signs of slowing down.
Image courtesy Will Bellamy, Racing America
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