Why Kevin Harvick Is a Modern Day Racing Hero

Misan AkuyaCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2009

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 30:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 30, 2009 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Kevin Harvick finished 19th in the Sprint cup series points standings.  With no wins for a second straight season, 5 top fives, 9 top tens, an averages finish of 20.9, and only 159 laps led, it is quite safe to say 2009 was a disappointment for Harvick.

Well in Cup anyway.

Harvick with his own nationwide team won 2 races, 2 poles, collected 14 top fives and 16 top tens in 22 starts and despite only doing 22 races , he still finished 15th in points.

In trucks as a driver Harvick won 3 wins, including the last 2, collected 6 top fives and 6 top tens all in 6 starts.

His driver Ron Hornaday Jr won the truck series title, clinching it before the season finale at Homestead, winning 6 races (5 of which were in a row) 4 poles, having 15 top fives and 20 top tens.  This is the 2nd championships in the last 3 season that Hornaday has won for KHI.

But why is Harvick a modern day racing hero?  Lets go back in time shall we.

It was Kindergarten graduation in 1980.  Harvick only 5 got his first go kart as a graduation present.  From 1980 to 1992 he raced in go karts winning  races and 7 national championships including two Grand National Championships.

Harvick decided in 1992 at the age 17 that it was time to move up into big stock cars.  So right out of go karts Harvick went NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series, a regional touring division of NASCAR, in 1992. He ran a limited schedule for two seasons while completing high school, running a full schedule in 1995 and earning Rookie of the Year honors. 

Harvick was faced with a choice.  Pursure racing fulltime or go to college fulltime and study architecture.  

“Racing is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life,” said Harvick. “In 1997, when I was attending Bakersfield Junior College, the time came for me to make a choice about my future: I either had to focus on racing full-time, or decide on a new profession and begin training for it. I chose racing, and I’ve never looked back.”

Two years later, Harvick won five races on his way to the 1998 Winston West Series Championship.  Looks like he made the right choice.

After racing trucks in 1999 for a little for teams including NBA legend and now espn analyst, Brad Dauthery, Harvick got the opportunity of a lifetime.

Richard Childress tabbed him to race his number 2 ACDeclco Chevy in what was then the Busch series in 2000.  Perhaps a comment from Dale Earnhardt saying that if Childress wouldn't grab Harvick that he would for his own team, DEI helped Childress with his decision.

Despite missing the first race of the season at Daytona, Harvick had a marvelous rookie season in the Busch series, winning 3 races, 2 poles, collecting 8 top fives, 16 top ten finishes, and finishing 3rd in points behind Jason Keller and champion Jeff Green.

Harvick was set for 2001 racing another full season of Busch and doing 7 what was then Winston cup races getting ready for a full cup season in 2002 when tragedy happened.

On the last of the 2001 Daytona 500 Dale Earnhardt crashed in 3 and 4 hard into the wall and passed away. 

Childress needed a driver to be in the 3 car, and Harvick was willing to help.

"We didn't talk about contracts."  Harvick said.  "I just said I would help anyway possible."

Harvick was put in a very tough spot, he was now the driver the newly renumbered 29 car and instead of making his first cup start later that season, made at Rockingham finishing 14th.  Then a week later at Las Vegas would finish 8th.

Then at Atlanta it all lined up.

It was in 10 to go.  Jerry Neadu was the leader with Dale Jarrett, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Harvick in hot pursuit.  All 5 cars under a blanket.

Jr cut down a tire ending his run, Jarrett while trying to pass Neadu opened to door fo Harvick who took it 3 wide and got the lead.  Then out of no where Gordon turned on the after burner and went on a mission to catch Harvick.,  He ran out of time as Harvick in only his 3rd cup start held of Gordon by .006 of a second to win the race.

The win did everyone good.  Not a single person in motorsports wasn't happy.

Even eventual champion Gordon was happy for the team.

Harvick was overwhelmed with emotion in victory lane.

"It is an overwhelming situation."  Harvick said.  "And it could have been a whole lot worse, if everyone would have had been a negative attitude toward it. But the race fans have taken me in with open arms, and they understand I can't replace Dale Earnhardt, and I'm not going to try to replace Dale Earnhardt. If it wasn't for the race fans and the race team and NASCAR and everybody in support of Kevin Harvick, this thing could have been overwhelming and out of control."

He would end up winning another race at Chicagoland, having 2 wins, 6 top fives, 16 top tens, an average finish of 16.1 and finished 9th in points.  He won rookie of the year over Kurt Busch.

He would also win the Busch series championship with 5 wins, 6 poles, 20 top fives, and 24 top tens.

Harvick would experience more success as he won the 2003 Brickyard 400 and finished 5th in points.  In 2006 he had his most successful year in racing.  He won 5 races in the cup series that year, won 2 poles, had 15 top fives, 20 top tens, an average finish of 13.5 and finished 4th in points.

That year he won the Busch series championship by 824 points clinching it 4 races before the season finale at Homestead, he won 9 races, had 23 top fives, 32 top tens and completed all but 1 lap.

In 2007 and 2008 Harvick would finished 10th and 4th in points.  In 2007 in dramatic fashion he made a last lap pass on Mark Martin to win the Daytona 500.  That remains his last win in 107 starts.

He also won the allstar race that year holding off Mr.Lowes himself Jimmie Johnson, and in 2009 made a last lap pass on Jamie McMurray and won the budshootout.

Kevin has also made an established nationwide and truck program.  With 5 wins as a nationwide series owner, and 26 as an owner in trucks and 2 championships he is well on his way as being known as one of the greatest car owners in any of nascar's top 3 divisions.

With an established resume in Cup, Nationwide, ad trucks, and racing in general whether driving or owning a car, and him jumping into a bad situation with Earnhardt's death and only shining, is there any question that Harvick is a modern day racing hero?


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