How Kevin Harvick Brought Two Strangers Together for the Love of NASCAR
It was March 11, 2001. Just three short weeks after the death of "The Intimidator." Wounds were still fresh and hearts were still aching.
I was making the drive home to Washington DC after visiting with my family in Virginia Beach. My radio was tuned to the "Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500."
Nearing my half-way point, right around Richmond, my radio signal started to fade with 40 laps to go. I knew where I could pick up a NASCAR feed just north of the city, but didn't think that I would make it in time to hear the final laps.
So I did what any good NASCAR fan would do, I pulled off at the next exit prepared to sit in my car and listen to the stat-icy reception until the bitter end.
As luck would have it, I found a tiny, po-dunk gas station. One of those real beer, bait, and ammo places.
Behind the counter sat a huge, heavily tattooed, tobacco chewing, good ol' boy. The kind that your mama warns you to stay away from. He was watching the race on a tiny black and white TV perched behind the register.
I grabbed a soda from the refrigerator and made my way to check out. As the ol' boy silently handed me my change I got up the nerve to ask where I could find a good local station to catch the rest of the race broadcast.
In a soft-spoken drawl he said, "Well hell honey, there's only 25 laps to go, you are welcome to pull up a seat and watch it with me, I promise not to bite-cha."
For the next 30 minutes he told me stories of a Dale Earnhardt that I had only read about. A true fan who had been there from the beginnning. One still trying to make sense of his tragic death.
Once a Goodwrench fan, always a Goodwrench fan. Since Kevin Harvick's Winston Cup debut just two weeks earlier, he was eagerly watching to see what the new kid, who he called "Harvey," could do.
As the final laps were quickly winding down, he began muttering "Go Harvey, Go Harvey, Go Harvey!"
When Harvick edged out Jeff Gordon for the win the two of us were literally hand in hand jumping around, like two teenage girls at a Justin Timberlake concert, yelling with delight.
There was a tear in that roughneck's eye as "Harvey" smoked the tires and held three fingers high into the air out of the driver's side window.
I thanked my new found friend for allowing me to share the ride with him and was about to head out when he said, "Ain't ya gonna stay for the post-race? You cain't leave before Harvey makes it to Victory Lane, it's the best part."
And he was right.
Kevin Harvick stepped into some big shoes just weeks earlier and on this day he proved that he could fill them.
After the post-race celebrations, I was sent on my way with a huge bear hug and a "thank you kindly" for staying.
It is a memory that will stay with me forever, to this day whenever I hear Kevin Harvick's name I automatically think "Harvey."
For the next few years I stopped at that gas station every time I made the drive to Virginia Beach to say hello to my buddy and share racing stories.
Sadly that station is now long gone, leveled to make way for bigger and more profitable properties.
I don't know what became of my friend, I hope that he is well.
But what I do know is that every Sunday he is sitting in front of a television set somewhere cheering on his boy Harvey!
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