Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

How Kevin Harvick decided to extend career, step back from media roles

Leave a comment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Before signing the extension that will keep him in the No. 4 Ford for two more years through the 2023 season, Kevin Harvick did due diligence on the deal.

And this wasn’t just about the particulars of his new contract at Stewart-Haas Racing (though he and his representation surely went through the details with a fine-tooth comb, too).

Harvick, who turned 44 in December, consulted with several professional athletes – ex-NASCAR drivers such as Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace but also Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi (who won three World Series as a New York Yankees catcher) – about how they weighed the merits of ending their careers.

“I asked a lot of questions about when those guys knew it was time and what did they feel like they could have done differently,” Harvick said Wednesday during Daytona 500 Media Day. “A lot of it pointed to why you would want to get out of a situation when you are competitive with a group of guys that you love to be around and are performing and racing for championships?”

The best pieces of advice he received?

“The thing that stuck out to me from Mark was to just remember when you walk out the last time, you will never get to see your number on that scoreboard again,” Harvick said. “From Girardi, it was, ‘Make sure they take the jersey off for you, don’t take it off yourself.’ ”

By racing into his late 40s, Harvick will be bucking the increasingly popular conventional wisdom that NASCAR drivers peak at age 39 and then begin a steady decline (a theory that has gained notable traction through the Motorsports Analytics website).

“The analytics go off of average drivers, right? I like to think of myself as above average,” Harvick said with a chuckle. “Most of the time.”

Jarrett retired from racing at 52, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst was fond of saying the car “doesn’t know how old I am” in the waning years of his career. Harvick ascribes to the same philosophy.

“A lot of times people forget that this isn’t baseball, football or basketball,” he said. “Experience in this game matters a lot more than being able to run fast or jump high. Our bodies don’t matter as much as they do in other sports.

“Most of those (NASCAR drivers) were in their 50s when they quit. It is easier now than what it was then. That was one thing that Dale and Rusty brought up. What difference does it make? As long as you are physically able to do the things at a high level, there is really no reason to just up and quit unless you have some things that are happening at home that you want to do different. As long as that circle of life is balanced, our sport is not like other sports as far as your body is concerned.”

Harvick said he also was cautioned by Jarrett (who had a rough final season and a half at Michael Waltrip Racing) that “if you are with a good team, and you have worked your whole career for it, don’t walk away from it and turn your back on it.”

Harvick won his first championship when he joined Stewart-Haas and crew chief Rodney Childers in 2014, and the extension ensures he will be the team’s anchor driver for at least 10 consecutive seasons. He will spend the next three years spearheading SHR’s development of the NextGen car (which will make its debut in 2021), another sign of being its undisputed leader.

“The things that mean the most to me are keeping my team happy,” said Harvick, who has 26 Cup wins at SHR and has reached the championship round in five of the past six seasons. “I am fortunate that they keep me in the loop as far as opinions and where things are at. I am lucky because that is kind of what (co-owners) Tony (Stewart) and Gene (Haas) wanted as they hired me was to be a part of that stuff and be involved. I enjoy that part of it. I also enjoy the part that I don’t have to pay for it.”

In signing a new contract near the end of last year, Harvick also decided to step out of his commitments to Fox Sports (as an analyst the past few seasons) and SiriusXM’s NASCAR channel (as the host of the popular “Happy Hours” program since 2017).

His appearances on TV and radio were well-received and pointed toward a promising future, which prompted surprise about the extension because it seemed he could have been readying for a media career after next year.

“I don’t know if that is a fair assumption,” he said. “For me, being in the car was always on the table. I think for me it was really testing the waters to kind of see what that was all about. I am in a unique spot to be fortunate enough to be able to experience that and still drive the car.”

Eliminating the radio show returned Wednesday afternoons to Harvick, who has spoken about the importance of chauffeuring his 7-year-old, Keelan, and 2-year-old daughter, Piper, to school and activities like any parent.

With both kids now traveling on race weekends, being an Xfinity race analyst on a Saturday afternoon was less appealing to Harvick.

“With my family coming to the racetrack more now that Piper is older, it is almost like you are on vacation,” Harvick said. “The way the race schedule is on Saturdays, most of these tracks, you run one qualifying lap and have the rest of the day to figure out something to do. Those were some of the compromises that had to come with staying in the car in order to keep the family life balanced and be able to spend enough time with them.

“I enjoy doing TV. I enjoy doing radio. That is all stuff that down the road I still want to do, there are just compromises in every situation and the decision that I made had to come with compromises that lead to more time.”

William Byron out of Daytona 500 after wreck

Getty Images
Leave a comment

William Byron is the first driver out of the Daytona 500 following a wreck late in Stage 1.

Byron, who won his qualifying race last week, wrecked with seven laps left in the stage after he received a push from pole-sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Byron slid through the backstretch grass before hitting the inside wall nose-first.

Byron was running in the top five with all three of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates when the incident occurred.

“He was kind moving when he hit me first,” Byron told FS1. “So he pushed me left with him. Then he hit me off center in the left rear and just turned me around. … It’s unfortunate. I feel like there’s really no reason, it’s Lap 45 or whatever it was, to be that aggressive moving across my bumper.”

Byron doesn’t leave Daytona empty-handed as he has 10 points from his qualifying race win.

Former NASCAR Chairman Brian France defends leadership style in interview

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
2 Comments

Former NASCAR Chairman Brian France defended his leadership style when running the stock-car series and said in an interview with Sports Business Journal that he was working on leaving the sport before he was ousted after his DWI arrest in August 2018.

The interview with Sports Business Journal marked France’s first public comments since his arrest.

France became NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in September 2003, assuming the position from his father, Bill France Jr.

Brian France held that position until Aug. 6, 2018, when he took a leave of absence after his arrest for driving while intoxicated in Sag Harbor, New York. He was replaced by Jim France and did not return to NASCAR.

Brian France pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in June 2019. As part of the agreement, he was required to complete 100 hours of community service and undergo alcohol counseling. If he completes those and does not run afoul of the law, his misdemeanor charge will be reduced to a non-criminal infraction in June 2020.

France told Sports Business Journal that he was actively talking to and identifying potential replacements before his arrest but did not go into detail.

France, who oversaw the TV deal with NBC and Fox that goes through 2024 and created the Chase/playoff format, defended his absence from the track during his reign. France did not attend every race and that became an issue in the garage, raising questions about how involved he was with the sport.

“I understand that kind of criticism, but there is no other sports league that gets any criticism like that,” France told Sports Business Journal of the time he spent at the track. “I’ve always found that a bit interesting that no one else asks another commissioner how many football games or practices he made.”

Jim France is at the track nearly every weekend. Brian France told Sports Business Journal that while his uncle attends more races to match his objective, “(it) didn’t match up with mine, so I had to take the criticism on my way to managing the commercial side.”

France, who endorsed Donald Trump for president at a Feb. 29, 2016 rally at Valdosta State University in Georgia, accompanied President Trump on Air Force One to Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, according to the pool media report.

Monday’s Daytona 500: Restart time, weather and more

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
Leave a comment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Let’s try this again.

After rain postponed Sunday’s race, Cup drivers will get back on track Monday at Daytona International Speedway to complete the Daytona 500. And the forecast looks very good for Monday’s race.

The race was halted after 20 of 180 laps with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leading.

Here are today’s details:

(All times are Eastern)

RESTART: Command to fire engines at 4:02 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:12 p.m. 

DISTANCE: 180 of the scheduled 200 laps remain to be run on the 2.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 65. Stage 2 ends on Lap 130.

TV/RADIO: Fox’s broadcast begins at 4 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s broadcast begins at 4 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 73 degrees and a 3% chance of rain when the race resumes.

RUNNING ORDER:

  1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Aric Almirola
  4. Ryan Newman
  5. Kevin Harvick
  6. Brad Keselowski
  7. William Byron
  8. Jimmie Johnson
  9. Ty Dillon
  10. Timmy Hill
  11. David Ragan
  12. Chris Buescher
  13. Matt DiBenedetto
  14. Chase Elliott
  15. Ross Chastain
  16. Alex Bowman
  17. Kyle Larson
  18. Kurt Busch
  19. Austin Dillon
  20. Cole Custer
  21. Michael McDowell
  22. Tyler Reddick
  23. Ryan Blaney
  24. Bubba Wallace
  25. Reed Sorenson
  26. BJ McLeod
  27. Corey LaJoie
  28. Brendan Gaughan
  29. Ryan Preece
  30. Justin Haley
  31. Martin Truex Jr.
  32. Kyle Busch
  33. Erik Jones
  34. Christopher Bell
  35. Denny Hamlin
  36. Clint Bowyer
  37. John Hunter Nemechek
  38. Quin Houff
  39. Joey Gase
  40. Brennan Poole

Daytona 500 postponed to Monday

AP Photo/Terry Renna
Leave a comment

The Daytona 500 has been postponed until Monday, NASCAR announced Sunday evening.

The race is scheduled to take the green flag at 4:05 p.m. ET Monday. The garage will open at 1:30 p.m. The race will air on Fox.

The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 72 degrees and an 11% chance of rain when the race is scheduled to resume.

The race was scheduled to take the green flag Sunday at 3:18 p.m. ET but that was pushed back because of President Donald Trump’s participation in ceremonies before the race. He gave the command to start engines and his motorcade led the field on a pace lap. An extra pace lap was done to honor Jimmie Johnson, who is making his final Daytona 500 start.

As the field was set to take the green flag at 3:29 p.m. ET, rain in Turns 1 and 2 prevented the start. Rain fell throughout the track and led to a 51-minute delay.

When the race resumed, the field completed 20 laps before rain led to a caution at 4:36 p.m. ET. The field again was brought to pit road and the race was stopped. NASCAR told teams they could uncover cars on pit road at 6:18 p.m. ET but almost immediately there were reports of rain drops around the track. Drivers were called to their cars but never got in them. It began to pour around 6:44 p.m. ET. The race was called at 6:50 p.m. ET

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the opening 20 laps. He is followed by Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick.

Sixth through 10th is Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Jimmie Johnson, Ty Dillon and Timmy Hill.

This is the second time the Daytona 500 has been postponed by rain. It happened in 2012.