Author: Ryan Pritt
Date: May 10, 2017
It’s just another week in the life of one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Series.
That’s Kevin Harvick, who finished 23rd in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, has practice beginning on Friday for Saturday night’s Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and who made time to make a pit stop at the grand opening of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in Dunbar on Wednesday.
The 2014 premier series champion, then known as the Sprint Cup, met with fans and signed autographs for an estimated crowd of more than 400 people in a sponsor’s appearance.
“It’s always fun to come to Ollie’s and visit all the different towns we go to and see the excitement that is around our sport and the support we get,” Harvick said. “It’s great to see all the people here today. [It was] a little foggy coming into West Virginia this morning, but all in all it’s great to be here.
“Our sport is a lot different than most sports because of the fan interaction and the things that happen in NASCAR are very up-close and personal and drivers are very engaging with fans in the things we do. It’s fun to go to new places and meet new people and do different things. You never know what you’re going to get, but today it obviously looks like we have a lot of support and that’s fun to see.”
Harvick is one of the premier names in the sport with the success to back it up. To go with the aforementioned points title, Harvick has won 35 races on NASCAR’s highest level, including eight at Phoenix International Raceway, a track record.
Harvick has also won 46 races and two championships (2001 and 2006) in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and has 14 more wins in the Camping World Truck Series, giving him a combined 95 wins across three national divisions.
He got his start in a less-than-ideal situation, taking over for Dale Earnhardt Sr. after his death at the Daytona 500 in 2001. Harvick, with a new number (29 at the time), drove the car the very next week at Rockingham and scored his first win in Atlanta on March 11, 2001, just three weeks after Earnhardt’s death.
Harvick continued to drive for Richard Childress Racing until his contract expired after the 2013 season and he signed on to become a part of Stewart-Haas Racing, a team run by three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart and Haas Automation founder Gene Haas. Once there, he won his only premier series championship to date.
Before this season, Stewart-Haas and its stable of four teams (Harvick, Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer) switched manufacturers from Chevrolet to Ford, a move that created a bit of uncertainty. But Busch won the Daytona 500, the year’s first event, to prove that the organization would be just fine.
Harvick, Bowyer and Busch currently rank 11th, 12th and 13th in points, and though Harvick has shown consistent speed, some bad luck — including four crashes — has prevented him from picking up a win.
“I think we’re running really well,” Harvick said. “Crashing in four of the first 10 races isn’t exactly 100-percent beneficial to the things we’ve done, but two of those races have been speedways [Daytona and Talladega] and we led laps in both of those races and have run up front at pretty much every race we’ve been to except for Martinsville. I think it’s gone fairly well. I think it’s probably gone better than we would’ve anticipated, just for the fact that the performance has been there and everybody is doing a good job.”
Harvick, 41, has shared a large part of his career with wife DeLana. At a time in the sport when several drivers have stepped away in recent years — Jeff Gordon, Stewart, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the end of this season — citing in part family reasons, Harvick has embraced involving his family in the sport, with DeLana and 4-year-old son Keelan often getting TV time in the pits or before and after races.
Harvick said it has been a fine balance, and appearances like Wednesday’s in Dunbar are a just a part of it.
“Every week is a travel week it seems like anymore because there’s a lot going on and a lot to do,” Harvick said. “For me, I like to stay busy, so it’s a lot to coordinate between everything we have to do and keeping a good balance with everything at home, but we seem to manage that fairly well and enjoy the pace of life.”
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