Kevin Harvick made his debut as a SiriusXM Satellite Radio host Tuesday night and made some news by announcing Stewart-Haas Racing was withdrawing its Phoenix appeal.
But those weren’t the most interesting comments made by the 2014 champion, who had a strong opinion on the most recent winner in NASCAR’s premier series.
“Kyle Larson is the best driver to come into this sport since Jeff Gordon, in my opinion,” Harvick said. “I think Kyle Larson is that good.”
How good is that?
Well, let’s peruse a partial list of drivers (and their credentials) who have entered NASCAR’s premier series since Gordon’s arrival in 1993 and Larson’s in 2014:
—Jimmie Johnson: Seven championships, tied for the most in NASCAR history. Also led the points and scored three wins as a rookie. He is the only driver who has qualified for the playoffs in all 13 seasons.
–Tony Stewart: The three-time series champion became the first Cup rookie to win in 12 years (and notched three victories in his first season). The 1997 IndyCar champion is regarded by many as his generation’s greatest.
—Matt Kenseth: The 2000 rookie of the year won the 2003 championship and has failed to qualify for the playoffs only once in his career.
—Denny Hamlin: The 2006 rookie of the year has made the championship round twice and has won in 11 consecutive seasons in Cup.
—Kyle Busch: The 2015 Cup champion has won in 12 straight seasons in Cup and has 171 victories across NASCAR’s top three national series.
—Kurt Busch: The 2004 series champion has 29 wins on the premier circuit, finished sixth in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 and also qualified for a Pro Stock event in the NHRA.
—Brad Keselowski: The 2012 series champion has 21 victories with Team Penske since 2011 and has emerged as NASCAR’s top restrictor-plate racer.
—Joey Logano: Two-time championship round contender and is tied with Johnson for most victories (14) since the 2014 season.
—Dale Earnhardt Jr.: A two-time Daytona 500 winner missed the last half of the 2016 season but was a title contender in 2014 and ’15.
–Harvick: His performance since aligning with crew chief Rodney Childers at SHR three years ago has been astounding: the 2014 championship, 12 victories and more than 5,700 laps led on NASCAR’s premier circuit.
So given all of those names … what would be the purpose of Harvick’s effusively praising the Chip Ganassi Racing driver?
“He’s just a kid that not enough people know about, but he’s won and wins in everything that he’s ever driven,” Harvick said. “He’s just a racer. … I think he’s laser focused on what he does as a race car driver, and I think he’s the best talent to come through this sport in a long, long time and is going to win a ton of races because he’s that good.”
Hey, wait a minute. When is the 24-year-old’s contract up?
Chip Ganassi notoriously is secretive about the lengths of his drivers’ deals (in IndyCar and NASCAR, particularly because the team wants to avoid having its stars poached by other teams). Larson reportedly re-signed toward the end of 2015, but it’s unclear how long his deal runs. It’s believed to run through at least the 2018 season.
That’s why the last part of Harvick’s riff on Larson could have been telling.
“I hope Ganassi has a good contract with him because every team in the garage wants a Kyle Larson. He’s a guy that you can put in your race cars and win races even on a day when they’re not the best race cars. He’s going to make them look good.”
By the way, it also is worth noting that Ganassi was miffed four years ago when Stewart and Gordon had high praise for Larson. The team owner hinted he thought both drivers had motives of courting Larson to join their teams (Gordon openly has spoken about meeting Larson in his Hendrick Motorsports office years ago and pitching him on the organization).
Larson responded to Harvick’s comments in a SiriusXM interview Wednesday afternoon.
“Man, that’s so cool,” Larson said. “I look up to Kevin Harvick a lot. For people I race, there’s not anyone more talented and focused, definitely as focused as it comes, then Kevin Harvick. To see what he’s done since he’s gotten in the No. 4 car has been amazing.
“I always enjoy racing with him. He’s the one guy always on my tablet that I’m watching his lap times. I’m always learning off Kevin. I feel our driving styles are very similar. He’s really aggressive and gotten really good at running the top the last few years. That’s really cool to hear a guy I look up to talk about me like that.”
VIDEO: See what what Jamie McMurray thinks about his teammate’s surge in success in the video above.