Kevin Harvick thought the emotion of his final NASCAR Cup Series weekend as a driver was over by the time the race was run until there came a question about his children.
On the pace laps before the start of Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway, son Keelan and daughter Piper came over Harvick’s team radio. The two were given the headsets to wish their dad well and congratulate him on what was a Hall of Fame career.
“Well that’s not normal,” Harvick said. “I know that they probably loved that, so…”
At that point, Harvick began to get choked up. He gave a thumbs-up and then turned to be with his family, team, and others who had gathered at his car.
Harvick finished seventh in his final Cup Series race. It was one last competitive showing for the veteran, who led 23 laps and earned his 21st consecutive top-10 finish at Phoenix (dating back to 2013).
“Just kind of a relief, to be honest with you, there with just so much going on before the race and this week,” Harvick said. “It was pretty cool to lead some laps there in the last race, though. I’m just proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, everybody that works on this car and has worked on this car for a long time.
“I’ve just got to thank all the fans and NASCAR, my family and everybody for all the support. It’s been a great ride, and I can’t complain.”
Harvick could only laugh and say he “figured” the crowd on hand Sunday reacted well when he took the lead. The car got too tight as the sun went down, and he didn’t challenge for the victory in the final stage. It was a winless season for Harvick, just the fifth tie that’s happened in his career.
“The fans have been great, just wishing us well [and] to do the best we can on the racetrack,” he said. “It’s been an up-and-down year, but we’ve had some good runs, and we were at least competitive. We didn’t ride around in the back. That’s the main thing, just doing all we can do.”
A 23-year career ends with 60 victories, including in all four crown jewel events. Harvick won at Indianapolis in 2003, 2019 and 2020, the Daytona 500 in 2007, the Coca-Cola 600 in 2011, and the Southern 500 in 2014 and 2020.
He won the Cup Series championship in 2014.
“This whole year has been incredible with the fans and the garage and everybody [with] all the support,” Harvick said. “We wanted to tell a story of 30 years, and I think we did a pretty good job at that.”
It took more than an hour for Harvick to leave pit road after the race. Tyler Reddick, teammates Ryan Preece and Chase Briscoe were among those who came to spend time with him. Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart also made his way into what could be described as a mosh pit of people around the No. 4 car.
In the pre-race driver’s meeting, Harvick was given a standing ovation. There was also a group photo taken before everyone dispersed for the final time ahead this season.
“It really hasn’t been about wins or losses, but you never want to flop around,” Harvick said of his season. “To be able to lead laps in the last race kind of tells you how competitive we still are and I think with some tweaks and adjustments to some of the things at Stewart-Haas, you could go right back out there and be where you need to be with everything that we have going on. Josh [Berry] is going to do a great job. I can’t wait to see Josh drive this car around.
“Busch (Beer) is still in this sport. Mobil is still in this sport. It gave everybody time to do and evaluate what they wanted to do, and that’s really what I wanted. I wanted to leave here and be able to look at all of you guys, look at the fans, walk in the TV booth, and walk into any trailer in that garage, whether it’s a driver, a crew chief, NASCAR, whoever it is, and be able to end on good terms and I think we did that.”
Harvick will be in the Fox Sports booth beginning in 2024, and that chapter of his life begins this week.
“I do already have calls next week with the folks from Fox and starting to work on end of the year things for what we want to do there,” Harvick said. “But I still think the responsibility is just as big to go up there and try to give the fans as much information as possible and do a good job for Fox and everybody with this sport to tell the best story that we can. We have a lot of great drivers, a lot of great personalities, and I hope everybody gets to see that.”