NASCAR Cup Series

Kevin Harvick retiring from NASCAR after 2023

3 Mins read
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

After twenty-three years of being one of the NASCAR Cup Series‘ most successful names, Kevin Harvick will hang up his helmet. On Thursday, the 47-year-old announced he will retire from full-time competition at the end of the 2023 season. He is the last driver still competing on a regular basis to have also done so during the Winston Cup Series era, which ended in 2003 as did the top level’s season-long points format.

“There is absolutely nothing else in the world that I enjoy doing more than going to the race track, and I’m genuinely looking forward to this season,” said Harvick. “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 realise 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.”

Harvick’s Cup début came under difficult circumstances in 2001 when he took over for the late Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing, but he made an impact almost immediately when he edged out eventual champion Jeff Gordon for the win at Atlanta in just his third career start. In thirteen years with RCR, he scored twenty-three wins including the 2007 Daytona 500 as he turned #29—which was selected by RCR as the lowest available number in 2001 after Earnhardt’s passing—into a household number.

He moved to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 and broke out with a five-win campaign and the championship. The switch turned him into an even greater monster as he has averaged multiple wins in every season since with the exception of a winless 2021 campaign, yet even that year ended with him fifth in points and the highest driver not in the Championship Round. Indicative of his talent, Harvick endured four seasons without visiting Victory Lane yet still has sixty wins, tied for the ninth most in series history.

In 2022, he won twice and made the playoffs but was eliminated in the first round.

The California native also has fourteen Truck Series and forty-seven Xfinity Series wins to his name, including a pair of championships in the latter. His 2006 Xfinity season is regarded as one of the greatest in the second-tier division’s history as he clinched the title with six races remaining and won by over 800 points.

In losing Harvick, the sport also loses one of the more colourful personalities. Ironically nicknamed “Happy”, Harvick developed a reputation as a firebrand in his early career that included arguments and even fights with various peers. Even in recent years and into his forties, he has been outspoken on various topics including the safety and performance of the Next Gen car.

However, he will not be gone entirely as he is reportedly expected to transition into television. Harvick has occasionally served as a guest analyst for FOX’s Xfinity and Truck coverage, including leading a drivers-exclusive broadcast where he and his peers called the races.

His involvement in racing will still continue outside the driver’s seat and even beyond NASCAR. On Monday, Harvick purchased the CARS Solid Rock Carriers Tour as part of an ownership group also consisting of ex-RCR team-mate Jeff Burton, Earnhardt’s son Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Trackhouse Racing Team owner Justin Marks. Harvick has also been focusing on his son Keelan‘s own racing carer; 10-year-old Keelan currently competes in karting and has aspirations of entering the formula racong ladder. Five-year-old daughter Piper has also been getting involved in karting.

“With championships across several NASCAR series and a NASCAR Cup Series win total that ranks in the top ten, Kevin Harvick’s legacy as one of the all-time great drivers is secure,” stated NASCAR President Steve Phelps. “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.”

SHR did not immediately announce Harvick’s successor in the #4 Ford Mustang. Outside of the free agent market, speculation points towards a return of Cole Custer, who was demoted from SHR’s Cup to Xfinity programme for 2023, or another Ford-affiliated driver like reigning Truck champion Zane Smith.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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