Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s announcement that he’ll retire from the Cup series at the end of this season has the focus turning to other drivers age 40 and older and when they might leave the sport.
Former champion Kevin Harvick, who is 41, addressed how much longer he’ll race on his show “Happy Hours” Tuesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“I can tell you that I have four more years left on my contact at Stewart-Haas Racing,’’ said Harvick, who signed an extension last year with the organization. “To me that would be the time when you sit back and re-evaluate things as to what you do going forward, just for the fact of where is (son) Keelan at in school? It’s very important for us to be involved as parents That’s my main priority to be the father figure in his life and make sure he’s progressing and doing the things he needs to do moving forward. There’s definitely a family aspect of that decision and where we are as a family and how the sport is affecting our life.
“I think from a competition side of things, that’s what drives me. I love the fact of the challenge that comes with, ‘All right, we’re not running good, what have we go to do to fix things?’ When you’re running good, how do you maintain those things.
“That competition of pulling into that garage every week and looking over at the guy next to you and saying, ‘Man I want to kick that guy’s butt, and I want to run good this week,’ and the motivation of showing up at the shop and being a part of the team — when that goes away that’s probably when I’ll just say, ‘Adios.’ ’’
Harvick was on the show with wife DeLana, who talked about how their plans have changed over the years.
“The funny thing is when Kevin first started and we got married (in 2001), we both agreed it was going to be 40,’’ she said of when he would retire from racing. “That was our drop-dead date, he was going to retire at 40 no matter what had happened. We passed that.
“When you’re younger, you sort of try to put things into perspective. We never thought we’d be 40 when we were in our 20s. Now we’re here in our 40s. Part of the reason that we waited to have Keelan so much later is that Kevin wanted to be a part of those things. I don’t know if he actually knows that because I ask him all the time with everybody with Jeff, Tony and Carl and now obviously with Dale Jr. I kind of try to poke and prod a little bit, and I don’t get very far with him because I’m not sure that it’s something these guys ever really like to think about. That was a question I have for you, Kevin, when you see your peers starting to do this, is it something that becomes more present in your mind? Do bad days make it worse, or how do you sort of compartmentalize as it comes to your career?’’
Said Harvick: “I think you’re always thinking about when do you retire. When is the right time to retire, especially when you get into a certain part of your life? I think performance definitely has a lot to do with it.
“As you look at running good or running bad, you look at a situation like (Greg) Biffle had, it all just timed out wrong, and he wound up not doing anything this year and out of the car. Dale announcing his retirement. I think when you look at Tony’s situation, there were a number of things that happened that led up to Tony saying, ‘I’m done with it’ maybe had something to do with in the car, out of the car, but there were some things that led up to that. I think when you looked at Jeff, I think he just said ‘OK I’m going to retire here because of whatever reasons.’ I think it’s different for everybody.
“When you look at my situation, I’m kind of a late bloomer on the racing side of things because we’ve had so much success over ether last three years at Stewart-Haas Racing, winning a championship That’s the performance that I’ve wanted my whole career. It’s not like we didn’t perform well at RCR, but we didn’t win a championship. We won races, but we’ve done it consistently over the last three years. For me that’s the most fulfilling part of what I do and what I put into my career.’’
Harvick, the 2014 champion, enters Sunday’s Cup race at Richmond International Raceway ninth in the points after his third-place finish on Monday at Bristol.