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Pushing the limits
Harvicks aggressive style pays off
He returns to Sparta for first time
since winning inaugural race in 2001
By Don Ward
(June 2006) Race fans either love him or hate him, but all must admit that Kevin Harvick is a hard-nosed competitor who hates to lose. Its just that sometimes his competitive spirit is sometimes mistaken for brazenness or cockiness.
Photo by NASCAR
Kevin Harvick races to a Busch Series
victory in Richmond, Va., on May 5.
Harvick himself may admit to being cocky, but race fans say its personalities like his that keep the sport interesting. Think Dennis Rodman (basketball), John MacEnroe (tennis), John Daly (golf) and Terrell Owens (football).
Harvick hasnt ever gone so far as to kick photographers or throw a wrench across the garage, but he seems to relish his bad boy image. Hes been fined for fighting, suspended for rough driving, but he always returns with that in-your-face attitude and aggressive race style.
After a four-year absence since winning the inaugural 2001 Busch Series race at the Kentucky Speedway, Harvick will bring his personality and Richard Childress race team to Sparta. He is racing full schedules in both Busch and Nextel Cup this year and is expected to enter the Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo Busch Series race on June 17.
"Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo"
Distance: 200 laps, 300 miles (1.5-mile tri-oval)
Qualifying: Begins at 4:10 p.m. EDT Saturday, June 17
Race: 8:05 p.m. EDT Saturday, June 17
Admission: $40-70. Gates open 1 p.m.
Also at the Speedway:
USAC Silver Crown Series midget races 9 p.m. Friday, June 16. (1/4-mile track)
Country music group Lonestar performs at 6 p.m. Saturday. Busch Series Drivers to Watch
Carl Edwards, Columbia, Mo. The 2005 defending champion of this event is
driving in both Busch and Nextel Cup Series this year.
Clint Bowyer, Emporia, Kan. Is competing full time in Busch and leads the Rookie of the Year race.
Denny Hamlin, Chester-field, Va. Coming off a May 12 Busch victory at Darlington. Also won at Mexico this season.
Greg Biffle, Vancouver, Wash. A former winner of this event, he won the Busch race at California in February.
The event has set attendance records for the series and is expected to draw another sellout crowd of more than 70,000 fans.
On the track, Harvick attracts a different kind of crowd those drivers who want to beat him to the finish line.
They were unsuccessful in three out of four consecutive races this season when Harvick won Busch Series events at Nashville, Tenn., Phoenix and Richmond, Va. Harvick also also notched a Nextel Cup race victory this season in late April at Phoenix.
That, along with four other top-10 finishes help place him ninth in season points after 11 starts, one of his best performances in recent years.
In mid-May at Richmond, Harvick led 272 laps and was in a position to win the Nextel Cup race, but a mistake in the pits probably cost him the victory. He was so upset afterward that he refused to talk to the media. That didnt earn him any love among reporters, but it did reinforce his bad boy image on the racing circuit.
Many race fans say that image isnt necessarily bad.
As one race fan wrote in to a Sporting News message board on May 12 in response to Harvicks recent snubbing of reporters following that race, Harvick may have been upset enough after Richmond to lose some owner points if he spoke to the press too soon. Harvick did need to address the media at some point, but he is right to do it on his terms, not on theirs. I doubt this episode will cost Harvick many fans, but maybe it will show some that a few drivers still want to win, not just ride around for points.
Another race fan wrote: Kevin Harvick is gonna be Kevin Harvick, and I dont think he has any problems with sponsors. He is a good business man... He just hates to lose. I think it makes him sick. But he is very down to earth and honest about who he is and is unwilling to compromise to the media and anyone else who thinks he should be any different than who he is, and that makes me a Harvick fan.
"Kevin Harvick File"
Born: Dec. 8, 1975 (age 32)
Hometown: Bakersfield, Calif.
Resides: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Team: Richard Childress Racing
Teammates: Busch Series rookie Clint Bowyer and Nextel Cup driver Jeff Burton.
Career Busch Series wins: 13.
Career Nextel Cup Series wins: 5 (thru 2005).
Personal: Married DeLana Linville in February 2001 in Las Vegas, two days after making his NASCAR Nextel Cup Series debut at Rockingham. They have no children. Nicknamed Happy. Has a vintage arcade room in his house. His hobbies include remote-controlled race cars.
At the Kentucky Speedway: Harvick has only entered one race, the inaugural 2001 Outback Steakhouse 300, which he won. From there, he went on to become that years Busch Series champion.
It could be a lot worse, the fan continued. He is not like (the NBAs) Ron Artest or Dennis Rodman, where he is kicking camera men. Just sit back and enjoy the show he puts on week in and week out, and if he says brash or cocky things or refuses to say anything at all, remember its all part of the show that makes this sport so fun to watch.
But this young, brash driver who many race fans love to hate is on a roll this season one that has earned him the respect of both drivers and fans alike. He also has had a solid career driving in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, which he continues to do on occasion.
Many respect the challenge Harvick accepted by stepping into the drivers seat of the GM Goodwrench Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing after Dale Earnhardts death in the 2001 season opening Daytona 500. In an interview with RoundAbout conducted in late May via email, Harvick said he accepted the challenge because its what I had to do. Richard asked me, and I felt like I wanted to help the company any way I could. Harvick later called it the most incredible year of my life.
He ran full time in both the Busch and Cup Series that year a total of 69 races. He outdueled Jeff Gordon to get his first Cup win at Atlanta in just his third start and became the first driver to win both the Busch Series title and Cup rookie title in the same season. By winning the series championship he made Childress the first car owner to win championships in all three of NASCARs national series.
As of late May, he has won six Nextel Cup races since 2001 but has struggled in recent seasons. Some wonder if the recent launch of his own Busch Series racing team might have diverted too much of his attention.
Michael Waltrip Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. also launched their own racing teams and they, too, struggled last year.
Harvick says owning a race team was a dream he shared with his wife, DeLana Linville Harvick, who grew up around racing and now plays a central role in marketing and operations of Kevin Harvick Inc. We have a really unique relationship, Harvick said via email. We have great separation of business and personal. She has really helped me get KHI off the ground. KHI was the dream that we both had when we got married, and it has come true.
Photo by NASCAR
Kevin Harvick, left, and car owner
Richard Childress take questions from
reporters prior to the recent
race in Richmond, Va.
Earlier this year, rumors flew that Harvick may leave Childress for the Miller Lite Dodge team or even hop to a Toyota team when it hits the sport in 2007. Harvick refuted those rumors, then made it official when he signed a new three-year contract with Childress in early May to continue driving the No. 29 in the Nextel circuit with teammate Jeff Burton. That keeps him with crew chief Todd Berrier, and following the announcement, the two went out and won their third Busch race to extend their points lead over RCR teammate Clint Bowyer.
Loyalty had a lot to do with it, Harvick told reporters at the time about his decision to stay with Childress.
Harvick grew up in Bakersfield, Calif., where he developed a love for racing at an early age. He raced go-karts for a decade before moving up to the Photo by NASCAR
Kevin Harvick celebrates his Busch Series victory in Richmond, Va., on May 5.
Featherlite Southwest Series in 1992 while still in high school.
After graduation, his friends went to college, but Harvick went racing. He raced a full-time schedule in the Featherlite Series, earning rookie of the year honors in 1995.
Harvick eventually attended Bakersfield Junior College but when given the choice, he put the books away to suit up for good. In 1998, he won five races to capture the Winston West Series Championship. Then a brief run in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series led to his meeting Childress. Impressed with the young drivers hard-charging style, Childress hired Harvick to drive in the Busch Series. Harvick paid his dues and earned rookie of the year honors in 2000 with three victories and finishing third in points. He continues to drive in the Busch Series behind the wheel of his No. 21 U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet.
Asked why he enjoys competing in the Busch Series when he has a full Nextel Cup schedule, he said via email, Im happy when Im racing, so why not do what you love as much as you can?
If I were to drive just the Cup Series, Id be bored a lot of the time. I figure if I am at the race track, I would rather race then sit in the motor home. Id much rather be behind the wheel of a race car. I dont see it as work; its nothing but fun.
Harvick credited his recent Busch Series success this season to hard work in the offseason. All the teams that I have driven for this year worked really hard in the offseason, and it has really shown to this point in the season. We just need to maintain consistency and put ourselves in the position for wins and top-five finishes week in and week out.
Harvick said he looks forward to returning to Kentucky, where he has fond memories of winning after dominating the race by leading 131 of 200 laps. I have only raced at Kentucky once in my career, and I won. That means it is one of my favorite tracks. Any tracks that I have won at before ranks pretty high in my book.
His goals are simple: My goals for the 2006 season is to win the NASCAR Busch Series and make the Chase in the Nextel Cup Series.
As a youngster growing up in California, racing was a dream that this kid from Bakersfield is now living out among NASCARs elite drivers and before an international TV audience every weekend.
I am living out my dream, Harvick said via email. It has been everything that I have hoped and more. Racing has given me the ability to do things that most people only wish to do. I have been fortunate to own my own team and help dreams come true for other young drivers.
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