Kevin Harvick wasn’t only passionate about proving the haters wrong by winning Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway. After his victory, he turned his feelings toward the need to boost grassroots racing.
Harvick will compete in the K&N West Pro Series opener Thursday at Kern County Raceway Park (the race will be broadcast at 11 p.m. ET on March 20 on NBCSN), and expressed the need for more to be done with grassroots racing, echoing a plea Kyle Larson made last year.
Larson triggered the conversation last March on short track racing when he said NASCAR should encourage drivers to race at tracks in lower series because “I feel like we’ve lost touch with our grassroots race fans.’’
Harvick carried that conversation forward last May when he said the Camping World Truck Series was racing at the wrong tracks. He said the series needed to run at “grassroots race tracks” instead of the bigger tracks.
Harvick, who is from Bakersfield, California, is racing at the local track before the Cup series competes at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, this weekend.
“I would love to build the K&N West Series back to what it needs to be, that enthusiasm, get to the right racetracks, help those kids,’’ Harvick said after Sunday’s Cup win, his third in a row in the series. “For me it was an eye‑opener last year when I went to Sonoma and saw the impact that running that race had on the competitors, the series.’’
Harvick won that K&N Pro Series West race, holding off Will Rodgers, a 22-year old in his first full-time season in that series last year.
“The fans will sometimes say, You’re cherry picking,’’ Harvick said of racing in a lower series. “I would tell you, nobody would know who Will Rodgers is unless it was for us running that race, having him on the radio show, bringing him to the pit box the next day, these guys take him in. If we can shed some light on those particular series, really build them back to where they need to be.’’
Harvick took exception with ISM Raceway no longer hosting the K&N Pro Series West. The series last raced there in 2015.
“One of the best things that happened for racing, it’s not just about NASCAR, was when we had the Copper Classic here,’’ Harvick said of the track outside Phoenix, Arizona. “We had midgets, sprint cars. Didn’t matter how many people sat in the grandstands. As competitors, those guys, this was their Daytona.
“It’s kicking those guys low on the K&N West Series that they don’t get to come and race at this particular racetrack because of the fact there’s a little bit of a pissing contest between a budget, what is right, what is wrong from a sanctioning fee side on Trucks and Xfinity. So they cut the K&N guys out. Cutting the grassroots side of things out is not the right way to do things.’’