Legendary driver Kevin Harvick retires after the 2023 NASCAR season | sports

Two decades of competition, 60 NASCAR Cup Series titles, a 2014 NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy and a pair of NASCAR Xfinity Series titles to his name, driver Kevin Harvick announced Thursday that he will retire from the NASCAR Cup Series full-time at the end of the 2023 season, leaving an important and long-lasting impact on the… Sport goes beyond the driver’s seat.

Harvick’s arrival in NASCAR’s major leagues in 2001 represented a huge career opportunity for the young Californian, but he came with an emotional and intimidating responsibility to follow the late legend Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing. Then the 25-year-old answered that big challenge winning his first NASCAR Cup Series race in Earnhardt’s car just three weeks after Earnhardt died and Harvick stood to drive (the team’s Chevrolet number changed from No. 3 to No. 29).

Effort and success under brutal conditions were a sign of things to come from the Bakersfield, California native whose passionate and clutch performance in that first season has come to mark Moxie Harvick throughout his career as a decorated pitcher. The 47-year-old has become known as ‘The Closer’ for being in the right place at the right time – arguably both on and off the track as a voice-over for rivals.

Now 23 seasons later, the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford driver will close the pages on an impressive, Hall of Fame-determined career.

Harvick said: “There is nothing else in the world that I enjoy doing more than going to the racetrack and I am genuinely looking forward to this season. But as the years went by, I knew there would come a day when I had to make a decision. So when is the time to step away from the car?

“I looked for people and picked their minds. When I asked them, when they knew it was the right time, they said, ‘It’s just going to happen, and you’ll realize this is the right moment.’” You will make a plan and decide when your final year is.

“It was definitely hard to understand when that was the right moment because we were so lucky to work so well. But sometimes there are other things that happen that become more important to me, and that time has come.”

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said of Harvick’s news Thursday, “With championships across several NASCAR series and total NASCAR Cup Series wins ranking in the top 10, Kevin Harvick’s legacy as one of the all-time great drivers is secure.

“In addition to his success inside a race car, Kevin is a leader who truly cares about the health and future of our sport – a passion that will continue long after his driving days are over. On behalf of the France family and all of NASCAR, I congratulate Kevin on a fantastic career and wish him all the best in his final season.”

Harvick and his wife, Dilana, have two children who already aspire to follow in their father’s footsteps. Son Kelan, 10, races karts internationally and his daughter Piper, 5, also drives a go-kart, and she seems eager to share in the family’s decorating legacy too.

Being away from his racing schedule would allow Harvick the opportunity to travel and mentor them. He leaves the sport, eager to immerse himself in his young family’s priorities.

“Last year, I think I saw Kellan race three times while he was in Europe,” Harvick said. “I go to a go-kart track with Piper, and I got twice as many steps in one day while I was there than if I wasn’t there in one day.” It takes a lot of time to regulate the level of racing they do and being around that is important to me.”

Being able to help his children make their way through the ranks is important to Harvick. He grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Bakersfield, California, a town that valued motorsports. Although at the time it was a legitimate challenge that made it into the realm of big-stock car competition on the other side of the country.

Harvick was a hard worker, with an uncommon focus and so much natural talent that he quickly found his way up to the NASCAR rank and file at 3,000 miles.

After starring in the NASCAR Southwest round and winning the 1998 ARCA Menards Series West Championship, he raced in both the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series (then called the Busch Series) before getting a call from Childress to take over Earnhardt’s seat.

In a three-week period in February and March 2001, Harvick was hired to drive in the NASCAR Cup Series, marry his longtime love Delana, and then win his first NASCAR Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in one of the most emotional and colorful races ever. Most memorable moments in all of NASCAR history.

“Dale’s pass changed our sport forever,” Harvick said, “and forever changed my life and the direction it took. It took me a long time to really feel comfortable thinking about what happened that day.”

“The significance and importance of keeping this car on the track and winning that race early in Atlanta – knowing now what the sport means and just that moment in general to be able to keep going, was very important.”

Harvick won 23 races with Childress from 2001 to 2013 and two Xfinity Series titles in that span (2001 and 2006) before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing where he made an immediate impact. Harvick captured the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series championship in his first year with Stewart’s NASCAR Hall of Famer team. He would go on to win multiple races in all but one season, most notably nine wins in a season in 2020.

He also has 47 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins and 14 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series victories—one of the few competitors with double-digit wins in all three major NASCAR series.

Stewart said: “I’ve competed against Kevin for a long time, and I was so happy to finally be part of our racing team. He’s incredibly reliable – consistent and calculated on 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 has helped elevate our entire company.”

It’s the kind of praise Harvick has heard throughout his career and thanks so much with the Thursday News.

Rodney Childers was Harvick’s crew chief for their entire tenure at Stewart-Haas Racing—the duo racked up 37 NASCAR Cup Series wins, 25 pole positions, 366 Top 10 finishes, a pair of Brickyard 400 wins, and two 500 Cup Southern finishes. The All-Star Race win. Childers was understandably touching at Harvick’s announcement Thursday.

Childers posted on Harvick’s social media post: “He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. In this opportunity our relationship never faltered. It was easy every day. We spoke every day for 9 years. Our passion and drive to be the best has never changed. And it never will.” We still want to win every week we show up. …

But most of all we became brothers. Best friends. Teach me to be a better, smarter and smarter person. And most of all, we learned what good people with the same goals can do if they really want to. Our team is our backbone, and they have believed since day one.

“….This year is going to be fun, and we are going to race like hell.”

Harvick’s former Richard Childress Racing teammate Geoff Burton said, “From teammates to friends, Kevin Harvick and I have been through it all together.

“He has made his way in the sport and has established himself as a leader and a champion. I look forward to watching him through his final season and seeing where this next chapter takes him. Thank you for everything!”

Harvick’s final season begins with the Busch Light Clash at LA Coliseum on February 5 and his team owner Stewart has nothing but high hopes for “The Closer” to end his championship run.

Stewart said, “I want Kevin to savor every lap this season, race like hell and take it all in. He made all of us at Stewart-Haas Racing very proud and we want to make his last season his best season.”

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