BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer
As a child competing on go-kart tracks throughout the West, Kevin Harvick dreamed of Indy cars and racing in the Indianapolis 500.
Harvick never got that opportunity.
The twists and turns of go-kart road courses morphed into turning left in stock cars on the half-mile Mesa Marin Raceway oval in east Bakersfield, which started Harvick on a path to becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup star.
Ironically, that did get him to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—a place formerly reserved for nothing but Indy Cars—and in 2003 Harvick became Brickyard 400 champion.
“Growing up a Rick Mears fan and wanting to race an Indy Car, winning at Indy was big for me,” said the Bakersfield native who now resides in Kernersville, N.C.
Since then Harvick has added Daytona 500 winner (2007) to his list of accomplishments, which include 18 wins on the Sprint Cup circuit and championships at several lower levels, including two on the Nationwide Series.
Harvick, 36, will be inducted into the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday night at the Marriott Hotel. He will be joined by three other inductees: Olympic swimmer Gabe Woodward, former Bakersfield High athlete Pat Skrable and the late Arnold Kirschenmann, one of the greatest golfers from Kern County.
“To get this honor while still racing, it sort of makes me feel old,” quipped Harvick. “It’s a pretty cool deal for me. You know how much this town and racetrack (Mesa Marin) supported my career.”
Harvick noted a lot had to go right with his career path to get him where he is now, starting with receiving a go-kart as a kindergarten graduation present in 1980.
“The first break was my parents (Mike and JoNell) giving me the opportunity to do the things I did growing up from the time I was 5 until 18. My dad was pretty much dedicated to everything I ever did in my racing career. We spent the most time together going from go-kart track to go-kart track.”
Then came the job of cobbling together a family-owned Late Model Stock car which Harvick drove to the Mesa Marin track championship in 1993 while a junior at North High.
Two years later, Harvick was earning rookie of the year honors on a regional touring series for Late Models and made his debut in the Camping World Truck series in a family-owned truck.
Then came the pivotal decision in his racing career.
“We didn’t have the money to go West (what is now the K&N Series) or truck racing full-time,” Harvick said. “So I took a chance to go work for Connie and Wayne Spears as a mechanic (on their race team), hoping I’d get a chance to drive.”
He started driving in the middle of the 1997 season and in 1998 he raced full-time in both the West and truck series, criss-crossing the country to compete in 52 races. It paid off with five wins and a championship in the West Series and a ton of overall experience.
By then Harvick was attracting the attention from a variety of people in NASCAR and in 1999 he was behind the wheel in a truck owned by former Cleveland Cavaliers player Brad Daugherty.
Harvick finished second in a race at Mesa Marin on April 10, 1999, and a week later was approached by Richard Childress at Martinsville, Va. “I literally knocked the bumper off of one of his trucks in the race,” Harvick said.
The following year he was in a Nationwide car for Childress and in 2001 he was thrust onto the Cup circuit, replacing Dale Earnhardt after his death on the final lap of the Daytona 500.
Harvick married DeLana Linville on Feb. 28, 2001, in Las Vegas and competed in both the Nationwide and Cup Series that season, winning the Nationwide championship while finishing ninth in points and earning rookie of the year honors on the Cup circuit.
In August of 2004, Harvick and DeLana started their own race team—Kevin Harvick, Inc.—and fielded entries on the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series.
He won another Nationwide championship in 2006 and won the owners championship of the Camping World Truck Series with Ron Hornaday as his driver.
In 2009, Harvick was named Driver of the Decade for the Nationwide Series.
He won four races on the Cup circuit last season and finished third in points for the second straight year.
“We’ve been fortunate all the way through my career to win championships,” Harvick said of some of his greatest accomplishments. “The Daytona 500 is the biggest race and to win that was great. Obviously, the biggest we want is the Cup championship and we’re still working towards that.”
And now the Harvicks are working on another project as well—parenting. They are expecting their first child in July.
Article Courtesy of Bakersfield.com: http://www.bakersfield.com/news/sports/local/x2117245392/From-go-karts-to-NASCAR-Harvick-has-built-an-impressive-track-record?utm_source=widget_57&utm_medium=photo_entries_teaser_widget&utm_campaign=synapse