**Megan Englehart | Posted November 15, 2011 Charlotte, NC**
KHI HOPING TO GO OUT ON A HIGH NOTE IN TEAM’S FAREWELL RACE AT HOMESTEAD
HARVICKS REFLECT ON TEAM OWNERSHIP, HIGHS AND LOWS IN NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES AS THEY BID GOOD-BYE
DeLana Harvick: “When we were able in 2001 to think about it, it really was sort of born out of Kevin’s inability to ever win a Truck race … It has been all of our blood, sweat and tears for 10 years.
“We’ve never really had the ability to just ‘be’ because 2001 was such a hectic, crazy, tumultuous time for us both with the passing of Dale.”
When the checkered flag waves over Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, it marks the end of an era for a prominent team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) co-owners Kevin and DeLana Harvick will close a highly successful, 10-year chapter in NASCAR team ownership at the conclusion of the 2011 season.
Heading into their final race in Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finale at Homestead (live on SPEED™ at 8 p.m. ET; NCWTS Setup with Krista Voda at 7:30 p.m. ET), both Kevin and DeLana say their dominant emotions aren’t ones of sadness, but rather pride in their accomplishments and eager expectancy of what is yet to come.
“The dominant emotion I’m feeling is to go out and win both the Nationwide race and the Truck race,” DeLana expressed. “I don’t think there’s any more of a compliment to what we’ve been able to do at KHI than to go out on top. Obviously by winning the Truck owner’s championship (No. 2 Truck) and solidifying that with one race to go, I couldn’t think of a better ending or a more fitting ending to what we’ve accomplished here.”
“Honestly, I’m just really looking forward to it,” Kevin said. “We’re really excited about the continued success, and the way the vehicles have performed on the race track has been a testament to all the employees and everybody that has been here working on the vehicles. I think that’s the most exciting part for me—that we’re going to go out being competitive.”
KHI’s reputation as a Truck Series powerhouse precedes it, something DeLana points to as the most rewarding aspect of ownership in the last decade.
“The thing I’m most proud of is the reputation KHI has, of a solid performance on the track, but also solid performance off the track, as well, in terms of how we handle our sponsorships and how we work the dynamics off the race track,” she said. “I’m extremely proud of all the wins we’ve been able to get, as well the championships (two Truck Series titles with Ron Hornaday, Jr.). Those championships are really hard to get in any series. The reputation KHI has been able to build and maintain these last 10 years means more to me than anything.”
Kevin points to some of the “big” moments in the company’s history as the achievements with which he is most pleased.
“There’s been so many rewarding moments,” he said. “Obviously the first win with (Tony) Stewart (2005 Nationwide race at Daytona) was really rewarding and the first (Truck Series, 2007) championship with Ron (Hornaday) – just being able to experience that with him was really cool. That probably was the coolest moment of the whole thing.”
Despite the organization’s lengthy list of accolades, when the Harvicks founded KHI, they did so merely out of a desire to give Kevin an opportunity to earn a Truck Series victory; not necessarily with the aspirations of earning the two Truck Series championships and 43 series wins they’ve accumulated since they opened the doors for the 2002 season.
“It (deciding to start KHI) was a little bit of both between Kevin and I because Kevin and I both raced growing up,” DeLana reflected. “I wasn’t specifically behind the wheel but my dad raced. But neither of us had the opportunity to go in with top-notch equipment. When my dad raced and then when Kevin raced, you raced off of what you didn’t tear up or what you could scrimp together, and other people’s seconds and thirds. When we were able in 2001 to think about it, it really was sort of born out of Kevin’s inability to ever win a Truck race. He said, ‘Let’s just build a truck and see what happens.’
“These were guys that were working at RCR that just volunteered to come over at night,” she continued. “We didn’t have any fulltime employees. It was just fun. So, we just decided we were in a position where we really could put together a quality truck. We went out and we almost won the very first race we tried, so I think that kind of put the bug in, or lit the flame under us, that we can do this.”
They did it and did it well. In addition to its 43 Truck Series wins, KHI has amassed 10 NASCAR Nationwide Series wins, along with 23 pole positions, 150 top-five and 221 top-10 finishes in the Truck Series. In 2011, the organization has scored 10 Truck victories with drivers Hornaday, Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Mike Wallace.
Despite how strange it may seem to shutter the team amidst all this success, the Harvicks made the decision they felt best suited them at this point in their lives.
“We’ve always done what we felt was right, whether it was going from a fulltime Truck team to two fulltime Truck teams,” DeLana related. “It was a hard decision to make. Kevin and I both felt that in order to have any resemblance of a normal life, and to the point the Nationwide cars had progressed and the competition level, we felt like this was the right time and the right thing to do … It has been all of our blood, sweat and tears for 10 years. It’s not just a five-day-a-week job. It’s a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year job. That’s no joke.”
But the duo also carefully weighed the implications for their dozens of employees.
“There’s a lot of different things you try to factor out because it’s not just Kevin and I that we have to worry about; there’s employees and families and things we have to worry about. We felt like the situations that were presented us, to merge with RCR and then with Eddie Sharp coming in and taking over the controlling interest of the two Truck teams, we felt that gave as many people an opportunity to continue to have employment as possible … I heard, ‘Oh, they’re getting rid of them because they’re not fully funded.’ That’s not true. We gave RCR two fully-funded Nationwide teams. It wasn’t that. There were a lot of other factors that went into it. The time was right. It was the right thing to do.”
However, the right thing to do isn’t necessarily always the easiest, a predicament compounded by the fact that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series holds a special place in their hearts for a number of reasons.
“That’s kind of where he got his first big break and where Richard (Childress) actually first really noticed Kevin was in the Truck Series,” DeLana explained. “The Truck Series has meant a lot to us both because that’s really the grassroots, in my opinion, of NASCAR. These young kids come in and you also see guys like Hornaday and Todd Bodine. There’s a place for everybody in the Truck Series, and while that’s not necessarily true with the Cup and the Nationwide Series, I think that’s what attracts us both. And we felt like we wanted to give back to the series that really got Kevin his first big break.”
The No. 2 Kevin Harvick Inc. team won the 2011 owner title in the Camping World Truck Series. (Photo: Getty Images) While the couple insists the time was right to walk away, DeLana says there remains some unfinished business, a situation they must learn to accept.
“As I look back on it, yeah, would I have loved to give Hornaday his fifth championship and kind of go out on a high note? Yeah,” DeLana said. “But that was the most heartbreaking part of what happened at Texas (with Kyle Busch). Hornaday just fought for the right to contend for that championship all season and it was just taken away from him and from that team and from KHI. I wanted to be able to be a part of that with Hornaday, and unfortunately, that won’t be. I would love more than anything to win our first Nationwide Series championship – that was something we never before really contended for. We always contended for owners’ championships … We contended for it all season and that makes me proud because that’s the first time we’ve really had a concentrated effort to go for that driver’s championship.”
Although Hornaday’s championship fate has been sealed for 2011, both Kevin and DeLana concur that when they lay their heads down at night, there are no regrets or lost sleep.
“No, Kevin and I both are very at peace with our decision, and I think that’s when you know that it’s the right decision – when you look back and don’t have any regrets,” DeLana expressed. “From the time that we both decided to do this, we never have looked back.”
“We feel 100-percent confident in everything we’re doing,” Kevin agreed. “Obviously you wish that it didn’t involve people. That’s the only thing that you wish you didn’t have to deal with was the people having to look for jobs. But as things have progressed forward, I think a lot of them have been able to find work and a lot of them are going to be employed at RCR and Eddie Sharp’s and all the different places around the sport. I’ve slept better over the last month than I have in a really long time.”
DeLana, arguably the most high-profile driver’s wife since Teresa Earnhardt, says one of her top priorities now will be the Kevin Harvick Foundation, which she says hasn’t been afforded the time they’d ideally like to have given it.
Beyond the Foundation, what’s next for DeLana?
“I don’t know – that’s the good thing about where we are,” she said. “Neither of us really knows. Obviously Kevin’s Cup career is the fulltime job in itself and we’ve never really had the ability to just ‘be’ because 2001 was such a hectic, crazy, tumultuous time for us both with the passing of Dale. He (Kevin) was running both Nationwide and Cup and that was his first season of Cup. We’ve never really had time to just ‘be’ and smell the roses, as they say, as you go along. So, typically, I’d be forcing myself to have that next big project, but I’m kind of looking forward to just seeing what comes.
“I’ve considered photography class, cooking class, and things that I have interest in but never had interest in before,” she elaborated. “I even thought about going back to school. I don’t know. I am thinking about a lot of different things. I think that’s what excites me the most. It’s going to be my decision and things that interest me.”
Regardless of the exhausting pace and “abnormal” life that ownership of KHI required, it was well worth the effort for the two at the helm.
“Absolutely,” DeLana said. “Some days I question that, but the gratifying part is to see what Kevin and I have built basically from scratch. That’s no easy task … These 10 years have gone so quickly because we were so immersed in KHI. I think that’s what has made KHI so successful. You can’t be an owner and not be involved. You can’t be there every day and not be involved in everything from the competition to the marketing to the PR. You can’t do it. There’s no physical way you’ll succeed. … Kevin and I always knew that one of our number one priorities is to have our hand in everything.”
While the Harvicks have prided themselves in having their hand in everything, they can’t dictate the finish of Friday night’s Truck Series finale. But if they could script the last lap of their final race as Truck Series owners?
“I’d script it to have them finish in the top three and whoever won would be fine,” DeLana stated. “If all three KHI trucks could finish 1-2-3, I think that would be an amazing way to go out. Certainly for sentimental reasons, I’d want Kevin to win the last KHI race, but on the same token, I’d want that for Ron because he’s been such a huge part of our Truck program. But think how amazing that would be for Nelson Piquet (Jr.) to win his very first race in our very last race.”
“With where it is now, last week (heading into Texas, where Kyle Busch wrecked Hornaday), I would have told you a different story than what I’ll tell you this time,” said Kevin, who will drive KHI’s No. 2 Truck at Homestead. “Obviously the coolest thing would be to go out seeing Hornaday win the championship and hopefully winning the last race but … being the owner/driver this week, it would be really cool to go out winning the race.”
… Kind of like they came in a decade ago …
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