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

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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.”

Justin Haley replaces Kyle Busch in Kaulig car for Xfinity race


Justin Haley will drive Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 car in Monday morning’s scheduled NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Haley replaces Cup Series regular Kyle Busch, who was scheduled to drive for Kaulig in the 300-miler. The race was postponed from Saturday to Monday because of weather, giving NASCAR a 900-mile doubleheader at the track.

Busch decided to concentrate on the Coca-Cola 600 Cup race, scheduled for a  3 p.m. start.

Haley also will race in the 600.

Ty Gibbs is scheduled to run in both races.

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”