AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kevin Harvick was smiling as he came into the Phoenix Raceway Media Center for the final pre-race press conference of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
In so many ways, Phoenix is a fitting farewell locale for Harvick, a West Coast guy from Bakersfield, Calif. and the winningest NASCAR driver in Phoenix Raceway history — having hoisted a record nine NASCAR Cup Series race trophies there, including seven times in a nine race span and four consecutively.
The 47-year-old future NASCAR Hall of Famer won the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series championship and earned 60 career wins in a 23-year career; ranking him 10th on the all-time list. Four times he won at least five races in a season — with a career-high nine in 2020.
By the week in his farewell season, Harvick has spoken to the media with reflections on his stellar career and thoughts on his busy future working in the Fox Sports television booth starting next season.
But Friday, he conceded, was a little different. Barring a victory in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship race (3 p.m. ET., NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), it will be his last time facing the media as a fulltime competitor.
“I think for me, all the weeks leading up to this particular one (press conference) were really not too hard,” said Harvick, who drives the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. “This one is a little more difficult just because it is the last week with your guys and everything you do is actually coming to an end. Up until this point, I don’t think anyone thought of it as real. This week it’s pretty real.
“This week has definitely been different than everything leading up to it just because of the fact there isn’t a ânext week.'” There’s been a ânext week’ up until this week.”
Harvick said he has spoken to and received pointers from Dale Earnhardt Jr, who also left fulltime competition for a successful time in the NBC Sports television booth. As with Earnhardt, Harvick said he has his future plans buttoned up and in place from his marketing and management company to his golf cart company. And the free time he’ll have with his family.
Most important on his to-do list is to spend time with his children, 11-year-old son Keelan and 5-year-old daughter Piper. Keelan is an aspiring driver and Harvick jokes that Piper — who also races — appears to be on her way to some sort of managerial position.
Either way, the chance to spend time with them and be there while they’re growing up is the upside option Harvick has not only decided on, but earned.
Harvick recalled a conversation between one of his team members and his daughter.
“He asked her, âWhat are you looking forward to the most?’ and she said, âDad’s gonna come watch me race,'” Harvick said with a grin. “So that will be fun.”
“It’s been a great ride for me,” Harvick added.
“I think when you look back on it and realize all the things you were able to be a part of and be fortunate to be somewhat successful at, it’s been fun. Obviously, I’m not going far. I guess I’ll just be sitting on the other side of the table, asking the questions.”