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longtime personality Kevin Harvick was a NASCAR champion who made a career out of driving his opponents to despair.
There are endless examples of destabilization by a former high school wrestler from Bakersfield who devilishly played mind games joyfully during title battles pushed the competition into fights and ruthlessly put himself and his team first at all costs.
But as the 47-year-old driver nicknamed “Lucky” (a nickname of sarcastic origin) enters his final season in the Cup Series, the next generation of drivers will happily tear down Harvick’s façade as a selfish superstar.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver they know was a source of good advice and emotional support. A veteran who actively offered a helping hand, even when many didn’t know they needed it. An accessible and shriveled ear to bend on almost any topic – and with almost any driver, regardless of his history with a fickle star.
LONG: Kevin Harvick has ignited the spark for NASCAR for many years.
Although Chase Elliott and Harvick was involved in one of NASCAR’s most memorable recent feuds in 2021, the Hendrick Motorsports driver said he and Harvick still have a “good relationship” that goes back nearly a decade. When Elliott began his Xfinity Series rookie season with JR Motorsports in 2014, it was Harvick (who spent his first year part-time at JRM) who became his biggest influence.
“Kevin was really a veteran in the building who was willing to help me and let me ask questions and I asked a ton of questions,” Elliott told NBC Sports. “We talked quite a bit there in the beginning, and I’m grateful for that. It’s not often that you find a veteran who is willing to lend a helping hand to a young rider who actually has very little experience, especially since many of these tracks are being ridden for the first time. And he understood it and was ready to help. So I have always had a lot of respect for him in many ways. Obviously he is a very good rider, but just for this period of time and for the fact that he is ready to help me, I will always be very grateful for that. These are important moments in a young rider’s career.”
Bubba Wallace recalls receiving a dinner invitation from Harvick a few years ago when he first started in the Cup. Wallace shared a meal with Harvick and his wife, Delana, and “just got to chat and talk about life.
“I will always remember that moment when he just wanted to help,” Wallace told NBC Sports. “Just knowing that Happy has a really good side was pretty cool to see and from the times we had skirmishes on the track we still race each other with respect and treat each other with respect. So I will always remember this moment.”
Harvick wants to leave that impression, but would rather “keep it as private as possible because I don’t want them to ever think it’s so I can talk about it (to the media).” It is noteworthy that the details of these meetings surfaced years later (and only at the prompting of the younger group).
“When they talk about it, I agree with it, but I’m just genuinely interested in trying to share what I’ve been able to experience and make mistakes,” Harvick said. “There are so few guys on these cars that you can really talk to them more and just reach out. With some of them you reach out and don’t hear much from them. Some of them you turn to and find yourself having dinner with you or having dinner at your house.
“They need to know you are there. Some of them cannot believe that you contacted them because they are trying to figure out why you contacted them. Or understand why you are interested in what they do. And really, this is just an attempt to set an example, because in the generation before me, all these guys communicated, helped each other and knew each other, and I think that this is important for our group of riders. We somehow got away from it. Some of it may be my fault that I didn’t try to tie it together a little better, but we’ve been hard at work on this for the last year and a half with all the security stuff and things we had. to sit still for a while.”
Harvick left the first iteration of the Drivers’ Council five years ago, disillusioned with its lack of influence. But with security concerns raised by the debut of Next Gen last year, he has re-emerged as an outspoken force that has been adamant about protecting his younger peers. Before the 2022 season finale in Phoenix, the father-of-two explained why he is being more public.
“I want my colleagues to be informed and educated, and I know how to do it,” he said. “It’s just an interesting time, and something that worked that way. I feel that most of the (younger drivers) are my children. I don’t feel obligated, but I think the time is right for it. You do what you think will help everyone. And try to do the right thing and balance that with what’s right for the sport.”
After finding Harvick in an almost unacceptable situation filling a ride vacated by the death of seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, Harvick often found himself side by side with NASCAR and other stars in his early years. He was parked for the cup race after several incidents in the 2002 truck race at Martinsville Speedway (where he also had a falling out with Bobby Hamilton in 2001).
But Harvick managed to stay under some NASCAR veterans (along with the late PR rep Jim Hunter). He calls Hamilton, Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett “the guys who helped me when I was in trouble and always gave you advice.” Later in his career, he became a teammate with Tony Stewart who would “compare records” about his past mistakes and how he dealt with them.
Directing the growing career of his son KeelanHarvick saw how young stars needed “someone outside of their circle who they can trust and ask questions and really discuss certain situations and know that it won’t get anywhere but between the two of you.”
“I think being a father has given (me) some idea of what’s going on with some kids, what they’re up against, and I’m trying to figure that out. So I think when you’re trying to understand kids – because they’re kids and they’re young – there are so many sharks in this particular sport that a lot of them just don’t understand how to manage their time and all that. what they are asked for. You can’t say yes to everything at this particular level, but they will try for a while until they have problems in terms of performance because they are not focused on the racing side. But in fact, safety issues brought all this into the game, because they brought closer to understanding who all the participants and riders are.
The bridges have become stronger with some younger but more experienced drivers. Joey LoganoThe history of Harvick’s relationship with Harvick is well-documented, but the two-time Cup champion said they get along very well now.
“Yeah, we didn’t start off on the best note – some of my own actions, some of his actions maybe – we had conversations and to be honest, now I probably have a better relationship with Kevin than mine by 90%. racers,” Logano told NBC Sports. “I think we can communicate on different levels.
“I think one of my favorite moments for Kevin is when we flew back from Vegas (after the race) last year. We just chatted back and forth. And we talked about the kids and the mistakes we made and how they all live on YouTube. In many of these videos, we laugh about it, and it’s great that we can laugh at it. You know this part is pretty cool. Now that we have a friendship, it’s pretty funny, because damn it, if you had told me 10 years ago that I would get along with Kevin Harvick, I would have said you were crazy. Never.
“But I think we’ve both changed so much now that we get along really well.”
NBC Sports asked several Cup racers to share their best memories and stories of Harvick. Here’s what many have said:
Corey Lajoie: As a teenager racing in the K&N Series, the Spire Motorsports racer built a car for the 2010 race at Iowa Speedway with his father, Randy, who had DeLana Harvick as public relations representative while racing in NASCAR over 20 years ago. “It was a Penske car. We couldn’t find parts. We couldn’t find the pieces. It was difficult for me to assemble this car for the race. Dad called DeLana and said, “Hey, my son is having a hard time getting the car together. He is not going to prepare for the race. The next thing I know, my dad has a (on) intercom in the store. “Hey, Corey got a call. Take him. “Hey Corey, I heard you’re having a hard time building this car.” – It seems so. Who is this? Santa Claus? Who is this?’ “This is (Kevin) Harvick. “Well, I have a mechanical shop and I have a couple of guys who are familiar with this machine. If you just want to bring it here to KHI, we’ll put this thing together.” And I’m like, “Honey.” I couldn’t download this thing fast enough. Booked it to Kernersville and drove it.
“He put Bruce Cook Jr. and four or five guys in this car. They made suspension parts, spindles and the like. They prepared the car for the trip. Because they had a lot more experience with it than I did. And we came, and we (took fourth place). So Harvick took a risk, helped his brother, and practically got my car back together. He put his people on it, and that’s how Harvick gives me (help) support…