Happy Harvick to hang up helmet at season's end

photo by Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

On Thursday, Kevin Harvick settled the swirl of rumors and speculation about his future by announcing he's retiring from the NASCAR Cup series at the close of the 2023 season. 

“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,” the 47-year-old native of Bakersfield, California stated. “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.” 

NASCAR President Steve Phelps released this statement in response to Harvick’s announcement: 

“With championships across several NASCAR series and a NASCAR Cup Series win total that ranks in the top 10, Kevin Harvick’s legacy as one of the all-time great drivers is secure. Beyond his success inside a race car, Kevin is a leader who truly cares about the health and the future of our sport – a passion that will continue long after his driving days are complete. On behalf of the France Family and all of NASCAR, I congratulate Kevin on a remarkable career and wish him the best of luck in his final season.”

Harvick drives the No. 4 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, where he’s been since the start of the 2014 season, the season he won the Cup championship. Owner Tony Stewart wishes him the best. 

“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.”

Harvick’s first Cup start came when he stepped into the No. 29 Goodwrench Chevy for Richard Childress Racing for the second race of the 2001 season following the death of the irreplaceable icon Dale Earnhardt on the final lap of the Daytona 500 the week prior. Harvick scored his first Cup win in just his third start. 

Harvick may not have fully grasped the enormity of his situation at the time, but he does now. 

“Dale’s passing changed our sport forever, and it changed my life forever and the direction it took. 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.” he said. “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.”

Thus far, “Happy” Harvick, aka “The Closer,” has racked up 60 NASCAR Cup Series wins to go with that 2014 championship, along with 47 Xfinity Series victories and two championships, plus 14 Craftsman Truck Series trophies.

Retiring from NASCAR doesn’t mean Harvick will be away from racing, though. He and wife DeLana are supporting their children's’ racing careers. 10-year-old Keelan races karts internationally, and 5-year-old Piper has started karting as well. 

 “In the last year, I think I’ve seen Keelan race three times while he’s been in Europe. 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,”

Happy Harvick to hang up helmet at season's end Happy Harvick to hang up helmet at season's end Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Thursday, January 12, 2023 Rating: 5