AVONDALE, AZ — After 23 seasons, 60 wins and a 2014 championship, Kevin Harvick wrapped up his NASCAR Cup Series career with a solid performance at Phoenix Raceway, the very track he made his playground for much of his career.
For a period of time, fans were anticipating his 826th Cup start would become a walk-off victory as Harvick was playing spoiler in the Championship 4 battle. All eyes went on the championship battle to Harvick fighting for the lead against William Byron and on Lap 93, he was able to lead in front of a sold out Arizona crowd.
Harvick ended up leading for 23 laps as his tenure in first would come to a close for good once Ross Chastain was too much for the future Hall of Famer.
From there, Harvick would remain in the top-10 but a chance of extending his win record at Phoenix to 10 waned. Nonetheless, Harvick finished seventh in his final race as he now shifts his focus on racing to the broadcasting booth as he’ll be a color commentator for FOX Sports next year.
On a day where the future is now with Ryan Blaney winning his first Cup Series title, Harvick received one last cheer from people as he was with his loved ones and No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing squad. Cherishing the moment, the Californian described this past week as an emotional roller coaster.
“This really means a lot to me just because I love driving the race car, I love being around the people more. I love our sport. It’s given our family so much through the years to be thankful for and proud of,” said Harvick.
“I can’t wait to be able to walk in that tunnel with my head up and look around, just look at all the really cool things that are NASCAR racing in every venue that we go to with great fans and people all over the place.
“I think for me, you walk into that tunnel laser focused on how do you make your car go faster and communicate with your team the best you can. Sometimes you don’t see everything around you.
“I opened this chapter unexpectedly in 2001, and closed it in 2023 how we wanted to. That was to be competitive. The thing that means the most is having the respect of the drivers and competitors and the crew chiefs, my team, organization, all the past people that I worked for or worked with.
“There’s been so many great stories and things that have happened over this year but especially this week.”
Harvick began his Cup career at Rockingham Speedway as the man who had the tough task of replacing Dale Earnhardt. Fast forward to 2023, Harvick ends his Cup career at Phoenix Raceway as the man who’ve certainly left a huge mark in the sport.
Whether it made people cheer or boo, a legend was made and hopes that people can look back at his national career, that began in the Craftsman Truck Series at Mesa Marin in 1995, as a person who cared about his craft through and through.
“I think for me, we gave it all we had,” said Harvick. “Every lap, every week in some way, shape or form we touched every aspect of this race car. I care about how everything looks, whether it’s the color of the car, the stickers. I sit in the sponsorship meetings, marketing meetings, the team meetings, and there’s just not any piece of it that I don’t feel like we are a part of in some way, shape or form.
“We built a team here at Stewart-Haas Racing. We built so many things from the bottom up. I think the hard work is something that people recognize. As you guys have seen through the week, I’m a pretty emotional person. I have just done a really good job of hiding that.”