Long: Kevin Harvick has provided a spark for NASCAR through the years


The assignment for the sixth grade class in Bakersfield, California, was to write about career goals. 

Even then, Kevin Harvick stood out.

The son of a firefighter, Harvick didn’t forecast riding siren-screaming trucks to emergencies. Instead, he detailed how he would race wheel-screeching cars and reach the NASCAR Winston Cup Series by age 30.

Harvick made it when he was 25 years old. 

MORE: 10 stellar moments in Kevin Harvick’s career

While his path seemed simple, it has been anything but for the future NASCAR Hall of Famer, who announced Thursday that this season — his 23rd in Cup — will be his final year. 

The 47-year-old has spent nearly half his life racing in NASCAR’s premier series, winning a championship and building a legacy, but nothing compares to his first Cup season.

Scheduled to compete in select Cup races in 2001 while running a full Busch Series schedule for car owner Richard Childress, those plans changed when Dale Earnhardt died in a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500.

Childress asked Harvick to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

“This will undoubtedly be the hardest thing that ever happens in my life,” Harvick said before his Cup debut at North Carolina Speedway, the week after Earnhardt’s crash. 

That race took place amid what was to be one of the happiest moments of Harvick’s life.

Harvick and wife DeLana were to be married in Las Vegas two days after the rain-delayed race. They thought about postponing it, but Childress told them not to do so. He told them that if ever there was a time for happiness, it was then.

Eleven days later, Harvick, in a white No. 29 car, nipped Jeff Gordon’s brightly colored car by six-thousandths of a second to win at Atlanta in what remains the fifth-closest Cup finish since electronic scoring debuted in 1993.  

Harvick appeared on the way to immediate stardom, but his path veered. While many wanted him to be an Earnhardt clone, Harvick sought his own identity. Conflict ensued.

Harvick’s feistiness led to confrontations with drivers. An altercation with Chad Little in the Darlington garage after a Busch Series race in 2001 led to a $10,000 fine and probation. 

After being wrecked by Greg Biffle in a Busch race at Bristol in 2002, Harvick leapt onto the trunk of Biffle’s car after the race and then lunged at Biffle. 

Two races later, NASCAR parked Harvick for the Martinsville Cup race a day after he wrecked Coy Gibbs in the Truck race in retaliation for an earlier incident. Ordered to report to the NASCAR hauler after the on-track incident, Harvick stopped his truck two feet from the rear of the hauler and left his truck there. 

In 2003 at Richmond, contact from Ricky Rudd sent Harvick into the wall. After the race, Harvick parked his wrecked car next to Rudd’s on pit road. Harvick yelled at Rudd before walking across the hood of Rudd’s car. Asked what Harvick said to him, Rudd said he didn’t hear because “(Harvick’s) got that little yap-yap mouth.”

Harvick has been at the center of other memorable quotes. After the fortunate timing of a caution helped Jimmie Johnson win at Auto Club Speedway in 2010, Harvick said of Johnson’s team: “They have a golden horseshoe stuck up their ass.”

Later that season, Joey Logano, upset after contact from Harvick spun him late in a race at Pocono, told reporters: “It’s probably not his fault. His wife wears the fire suit in the family.”

Other times, Harvick has shined. He has often done things differently. He signed to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing a year before his contract with Richard Childress Racing ended after the 2013 season. Despite predictions that Harvick would falter in a lame-duck season, he won four races and finished third in points, tying for his best points result to that point.

He won the Cup title the following season at SHR. Partnered with crew chief Rodney Childers, they formed a team that got better with age. Twenty-nine of Harvick’s 60 Cup victories have come after he turned 40 — a time when driver careers often slow instead of accelerate.

He still has the fire, as was evident in his confrontation on pit road with Chase Elliott at Bristol during the 2021 playoffs. Elliott was upset with Harvick for contact that cut Elliott’s tire late. Harvick was upset with Elliott impeding him in the final laps, costing Harvick the win. The feud continued for a couple of weeks, leading to Harvick punting Elliott at the Charlotte Roval.

Harvick also has shown signs of growth. He’s become more focused on the direction of the sport. He’s served as a mentor for young drivers. As driver angst grew about injuries last year, Harvick spoke out about safety concerns last fall.

Now, he prepares for his final season as a driver. It’s a long way back from when he would work with his dad under a race car at age 3 and help “fix” it. That meant sticking spark plugs into crevices only to see those spark plugs bounce out from underneath the car once it was on track.

Then again, Harvick didn’t need those spark plugs. He provides the spark.

Alpha Prime Racing’s road woes don’t keep team from competing


SONOMA, Calif. — Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins laughs. He can. His Xfinity Series cars all are here at Sonoma Raceway.

At one point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.

“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had of my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports on Friday at Sonoma.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma

The Alpha Prime Racing team had both its trucks break down and one of its haulers have mechanical issues last week on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“We basically sent four pieces of equipment on the road and three of them broke,” Martins said.

For a time, the car Sage Karam is driving this weekend at Sonoma was left in a hauler in Kansas City because there wasn’t room in the dually Martins sent. It had room only for the car that was needed at Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was to be a backup at Portland, was left behind.

“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” Martins said.

He still has one truck still in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when everything is totaled.

Trouble started well before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.

The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to run May 27. Rain forced that event to be rescheduled to May 29. Martins said the team had planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. With the race pushed back to the 29th, the travel schedule tightened.

It got worse.

After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day – after being delayed by rain from Sunday – the rest of the Xfinity race was pushed back until after the 600. That further tightened the window on Xfinity teams to make it to Portland.

The Xfinity race ended around 11:30 p.m. ET on May 29. Alpha Prime Racing’s haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.

The two trucks traveled together until issues in St. Louis.

The truck hauling the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine issues in St. Louis. The other truck kept going until it had mechanical issues with its hauler in Kansas City. The air bags on the hauler failed.

So, Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a hauler that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a hauler that did.

The truck in Kansas City went back to St. Louis to attach to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to haul the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A dually left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t, including Karam’s Sonoma car stayed behind.

Yet, more trouble was headed for Martins and his team.

The truck that had gone back from Kansas City to St. Louis to take hauler that worked then broke down about 200 miles from Portland.

“I laugh knowing that we’re on the other side of it,” Martins said Friday of all the issues his team had transporting cars and equipment across the country.

“We’ve started to make plans and corrections for it not happening again,” he said.

That hauler that was left in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.

“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just awesome about the whole thing. … They went through hell week as far as driving somewhere, fly back and pick something up, drive again and now are going to have to do the same thing getting back.”

When the garage opened Friday at Sonoma, Alpha Prime Racing had all its cars.

“I don’t think we had any major issues here, so that was good,” Martins said.

The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart in Friday’s practice, leading Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was last among 41 cars.

After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-earned weekend off.

Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma


SONOMA, Calif. — Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Xfinity Series practice at Sonoma Raceway.

This is the first time the series has raced at the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California. Teams got 50 minutes of practice Friday.

Larson led the way with a lap of 90.392 mph. He was more than a second faster than the rest of the field.

MORE: Xfinity practice results Sonoma

Sheldon Creed was second on the speed chart with a lap of 89.066 mph. He was followed by AJ Allmendinger (89.052 mph), Cole Custer (89.020) and Ty Gibbs (88.989).

Larson, Allmendinger and Gibbs are among seven Cup drivers are entered in the Xfinity race. Aric Almirola was seventh on the speed chart with a lap of 88.750 mph. Ross Chastain was ninth with a lap of 88.625 mph. Daniel Suarez was 16th with a lap of 88.300 mph. Ty Dillon was 33rd with a lap of 86.828 mph.

Anthony Alfredo will go to a backup car after a crash in practice. He was uninjured in the incident that damaged the right side of his car.

Qualifying is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Saturday. The race is scheduled to begin at 8:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

Anthony Alfredo’s car after a crash in Xfinity practice Friday at Sonoma Raceway. He was uninjured. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Saturday Sonoma Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


The Xfinity Series will compete for the first time at Sonoma Raceway this weekend. This is one of eight road course events on the Xfinity schedule this season.

Seven Cup drivers are scheduled to compete in Saturday’s race, including AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, who won last year’s Cup race at this track Allmendinger has won 11 of 25 career road course starts in the Xfinity Series.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Sonoma Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Golden State Warrior Patrick Baldwin Jr. will give the command to start engines at 8:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:20 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. … Driver introductions begin at 7:35 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Earl Smith, team pastor for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers, at 8 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by 9-year-old Isis Mikayle Castillo at 8:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 79 laps (156.95 miles) on the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 20. Stage 2 ends at Lap 45.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 8 p.m. ... Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. and can be heard on goprn.com. … SiriusXN NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mostly cloudy with a high of 72 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: This is the first time the Xfinity Series has raced at Sonoma.


NASCAR Friday schedule at Sonoma Raceway


The Xfinity Series makes its first appearance Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Xfinity teams, coming off last weekend’s race at Portland International Raceway, get 50 minutes of practice Friday because Sonoma is a new venue for the series.

Seven Cup drivers, including Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, are among those entered in the Xfinity race. Suarez won the Cup race at Sonoma last year.

Xfinity teams will qualify and race Saturday at the 1.99-mile road course.

Sonoma Raceway


Friday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 69 degrees.

Friday, June 9

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — ARCA Menards Series West
  • 1 – 10 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2 – 3 p.m. — ARCA West practice
  • 3:10 – 3:30 p.m. — ARCA West qualifying
  • 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 p.m. — ARCA West race (64 laps, 127.36 miles; live on FloRacing, will air on CNBC at 11:30 a.m. ET on June 18)