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Kevin Harvick to retire from NASCAR racing after 30 years

Photo by Chris Salazar/TRE

A NASCAR career spanning 30 seasons, including 23 Cup seasons, will come to an end for Kevin Harvick after 2023.

Stewart-Haas Racing confirmed Thursday that Kevin Harvick will retire from NASCAR at the end of the 2023 season.

The Bakersfield, Cali.-native began his NASCAR career in 1994, by making his debut in the Southwest division at the hometown Mesa Marin Raceway. Although Harvick finished last in his debut and only managed a best finish of 14th in his first few races, he broke through for his Southwest win at Tucson Raceway Park in September 1995.

Wayne Spears (far-right) was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in 2009; Photo by Northfork Photo

Kevin Harvick and his father, Mike, worked together to go Truck, Southwest and West racing in 1995 and 1996. This attracted the attention of Wayne Spears, who fielded rides for Kevin in 1997-99. Kevin won the 1998 West division championship for Spears.

Kevin eventually attracted the attention of Richard Childress, who signed him for two Xfinity races in 1999 before going full-time in 2000. In 2000, he netted three wins, 8 top-5 finishes, 16 top-10s and a third-place points finish for Childress.

Erick Messer/The Racing Experts

For Childress, Kevin Harvick may be one of the most important figures in his organization’s history. Harvick, then just a 25-year-old rookie, stepped in to fill the biggest shoes imaginable, left behind by the sudden death of Dale Earnhardt.

In only his third Cup start, Harvick kickstarted his legendary highlight reel with a tense, nail-biting battle resolved by relief to the NASCAR world – and a team that seemingly lost everything just three weeks before.

Not to mention, it was a victory against Jeff Gordon, one of the fiercest rivals Earnhardt and his fanbase faced.

While Harvick often battled his own temper as much as other drivers on the track, he carried the Richard Childress Racing organization through the post-Dale Earnhardt era and helped them find their footing again.

Along the way, Harvick was teammates with winners such as Robby Gordon, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer, who each made their mark on RCR.

Harvick and Bowyer were also the stars of the 2007 Daytona 500, where Harvick edged out Mark Martin to win and Bowyer nearly stole the show finishing upside-down and on-fire.

DAYTONA, FL – FEBRUARY 18: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, leads Mark Martin, driver of the #01 U.S. Army Chevrolet, right before crossing the finish line to win the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2007 in Daytona, Florida. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Then in 2014, Harvick joined Stewart-Haas Racing and vaulted himself into becoming the legend many herald him as.

In his first seven seasons with SHR he:

  • Earned 35 wins and won the Cup championship in 2014
  • Made five Championship 4 appearances
  • Led 1300+ laps in five seasons
  • Only finished below fifth in points once

Harvick also continued to heal the NASCAR fanbase by winning the May 2020 True Heroes 400 at Darlington – the first race after a two-month postponement due to the COVID pandemic.

Harvick’s legacy lies in his statistics and how he carried NASCAR into the new century. If you discuss 2000s NASCAR, you’ll always hear Harvick’s name come up alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and others who defined the era.

Now, as new stars come in, including Harvick’s teammate Chase Briscoe, Harvick has become the wise-old sage. Like when safety was a top concern last year, Harvick is often a go-to source for honest feedback on some of the sport’s most-pressing issues.

Photo by Cheri Eaton/TRE

While he won’t give his input as a driver anymore after 2023, Harvick is expected to offer it from the FOX booth instead. Keelan will be all-ears to his dad as well, as he climbs the ladder – and already has sponsorship from Cup team Trackhouse Racing.

Kevin Harvick walks during driver introductions for the 2018 Pocono 400. (Tyler Head | The Racing Experts)
Kevin Harvick walks during driver introductions for the 2018 Pocono 400. (Tyler Head | The Racing Experts)

Harvick may be retiring but wins and going out on top are possible, just as Jeff Gordon did in 2015 when he also retired after 23 seasons.

Like Gordon had in 2015, 2023 will be Harvick’s last on-track reminder of the excitement he’s brought and the legacy he’s made in NASCAR.

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