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Kevin Harvick’s 2023 NASCAR season could very well be his last

Kevin Harvick’s 2023 NASCAR season could very well be his last
Kevin Harvick won the 59th and 60th Cup Series races of his career in 2022. (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (BVM) – Kevin Harvick is currently NASCAR’s longest-tenured active driver. The 46-year-old has seen plenty of brilliant moments during his tremendous racing career, and continued to find success with two more Cup Series victories in 2022. However, his racing career could soon be coming to an end with retirement rumors continuing to swirl. That leads to the question of what could be next for the racing star?

Kevin Harvick’s accomplishments, recent wins

Over the past few decades, Harvick has put together one of the most decorated careers NASCAR has seen. He is one of just six drivers to win an Xfinity Series title – which he did twice in 2001 and 2006 – and a Cup Series title, which he took home in 2014. 

Harvick also has a victory in the 2007 Daytona 500 to his name, one of 60 Cup Series victories for “The Closer,” the ninth-best mark all time. Harvick’s 121 wins across each of NASCAR’s series are the third-most all time.

After going winless in the Cup Series in 2021, Harvick proved he still has what it takes in 2022, winning back-to-back races at Michigan and Richmond in August. 

They were part of over a dozen top-10 finishes for Harvick in 2022, including capping the year with a fifth-place run at Phoenix in early November – the 790th Cup Series start of his career.

Kevin Harvick’s struggles, frustrations in 2022

While Harvick saw plenty of success on the track once again last season, there were also some difficult times for the veteran driver. In the Cup Series playoff opener at Darlington Raceway, Harvick’s No. 4 Ford Mustang caught on fire despite no wreck or contact with another car.

Soon after, Harvick took out his frustration on NASCAR, specifically calling out the parts of the new Next Gen car that was introduced prior to the 2022 season. Although the cars were supposed to be safer, many drivers felt throughout the year that they were anything but, while injuries during wrecks such as concussions suffered by Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman that sidelined each driver for large chunks of the season further proved the notion.

“I’m sure it’s just the crappy parts on the race car like we’ve seen so many times,” Harvick said after his car went up in flames at Darlington. “We haven’t fixed anything. It’s kind of like the safety stuff, we just let it keep going and keep going. The car started burning, and as it burned, the flames started coming through the dash … What a disaster, for no reason. We didn’t touch a wall, we didn’t touch a car, and here we are in the pits with a burned up car and can’t finish the race during the playoffs.”

While NASCAR did eventually respond to the issue as Harvick began selling T-shirts poking fun at the incident, it’s a situation both Harvick and the organization would like to avoid in the future.

The Darlington incident was not the first time Harvick addressed safety concerns about the Next Gen cars, however, and it was also not the last, as Harvick took to Twitter in late September to further voice his frustrations.

Just a week later and about a month after the incident at Darlington had occurred, Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) were both docked 100 points, while crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $100,000 and suspended for four races as NASCAR ruled that the team modified a supplied part on the car, leading to a rules violation. It was another low moment in what was a unique season for Harvick.

What does Kevin Harvick’s future hold?

Over the past couple of years, Harvick has faced plenty of questions about retirement, as he is 46 years old, and will be 47 by the start of next season. However, Harvick debunked the retirement rumors a couple of times last year, and he seems set to race in 2023, the final year of his contract with SHR.

Even despite his frustrations with NASCAR last season, Harvick proved he still had it with a couple of victories and making the playoffs, a vast improvement on his winless 2021 season. Just two years ago, the Cup Series star won nine races, so despite his age, there is no doubt that Harvick could still compete for his second career Cup Series title.

SHR will have a bit of a different look around Harvick in 2023 as well. Although the veteran driver was hoping to see Kyle Busch join the team prior to his signing with Richard Childress Racing, it was recently announced that Ryan Preece will join SHR in 2023, taking over the No. 41 Ford Mustang. He will join Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe along with Harvick on the team.

While there always remains a possibility Harvick looks to extend his contract, the move to bring in Preece can also be seen as another likely sign that Harvick moves on from SHR after 2023. From there, he could take multiple paths.

The most likely seems to be retirement, as Harvick could be one of several drivers who could potentially call if quits after next season. Stepping away from the car would give Harvick more time with his kids, including his son Keelan who is in the beginning stages of his own racing career. Retirement from driving could also lead to a potential TV opportunity, perhaps with Fox Sports in the booth alongside Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer. 

However, there is always a chance Harvick looks to end his NASCAR career elsewhere, or becomes a part-time driver down the road, similar to what Jimmie Johnson recently announced as he returns to the Cup Series with Petty GMS.

Only time will tell exactly what the future holds for Harvick. But even despite some of the ups and downs over the past few years, he is certain to go down as one of the best drivers the sport has ever seen.