‘This week it’s pretty real’ Harvick says, reflecting on final Cup start

Kevin Harvick started what could be his final NASCAR Cup Series press conference as a driver by recognizing the media who has covered his illustrious career.

It was notable for a number of reasons. Harvick had a tempestuous relationship with the media throughout the years, but his maturity as time went on made him a welcome interviewee and one of the best in the garage.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver retires from competition after Sunday’s season finale. Should Harvick win the race, it would require another appearance in the media center. If not, Harvick has fulfilled that obligation for the last time.

Next season, Harvick becomes a member of the media as he joins Fox Sports in the broadcast booth.

“Obviously, it’s been a great ride,” Harvick said. “And it’s something that I love to do, and as you look back on it and realize all the things that you’ve been able to be a part of and be fortunate to be somewhat successful at, it’s been fun. I’m not going far. I guess I’ll just be sitting on the other side of the table asking the questions.

“But it’s been a great ride, and appreciate everything you guys have done for me, whether they’re good questions or bad questions. I guess [it] doesn’t really matter, but it’s been fun. I appreciate what you guys do.”

Harvick became a full-time Cup Series driver in 2001, thrust into the series following the death of Dale Earnhardt. It took time before it started to feel like his car and team, but in the 13 years spent at Richard Childress Racing, Harvick earned 23 victories — among them, the 2007 Daytona 500.

For the past 10 years, Harvick has driven for Stewart-Haas Racing. While doing so, he solidified a Hall of Fame career with a championship in 2014 and an additional 37 victories.

“All the weeks leading up to this particular one were really not that hard,” Harvick said of the finale. “I think this week was a little more difficult just because it is the last week with your guys and the people and everything that you do is actually coming to an end. Up until this point, I don’t think anybody really thought it was real, and this week it’s pretty real.

“This week has been definitely different than everything leading up to this just because of the fact that there isn’t a next week. There’s been a next week up until this week. It’s very different, the things that we have to do going forward, but it’s all planned out, and I think as I talked to Dale [Earnhardt] Jr., he was in a very similar situation where the TV piece of it was planned out. The race team piece of it is planned out. We have a management company. We have golf cart stores. All of those things are already functioning.

“It would be much different if you weren’t closing the book. I feel very fortunate to be able to open the book and obviously, our first chapter was a little bit different than most people’s, but it’s the time that we chose to be able to say, ‘OK, this is it.’ This is going to be the last week coming to Phoenix and racing here for the last time. When you used to come here and race just for a hobby, and you looked forward to coming to this particular racetrack on Cup weekend and in February for the Copper Classic every year. As a west coast racer that’s what you did. It is a lot different than [in] weeks past because there isn’t a next one.”

With his driving career over, Harvick will also be able to attend more of his son Keelan’s and daughter Piper’s race events.

“For weeks, Piper has been like, ‘Dad, why do you have to go to the next one? You’re already retiring,’” Harvick said. “She’s pretty much over it. Keelan is terrified just because of the fact that he knows I’m going to be at way more races than what I was before, and he knows that I’m going to be all over him a lot more than I am right now. Right now, he can go off and do his thing and race, and dad’s not there to critique every single move that he makes, so that party is over, but I think it’s fun.

“Piper told Cheddar earlier [when] he asked her, ‘What are you looking forward to the most?’ She said, ‘Well, dad is going come watch me race.’ That’ll be fun.”

Story originally appeared on Racer