Kevin Harvick is going back to his roots — way back.
The 1998 Winston West champion will make a curtain call in what is now called the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West when the tour races at Sonoma Raceway on June 24.
“I won the race 19 years ago and 19 years later, I’m going to run the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race again for Jefferson-Pitts Racing in the No. 4 Ford,” Harvick said on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show Happy Hours. So it’s something that I wanted to do more of and Sonoma was really the first opportunity to go out and really just have fun and get some more laps and go to a race track where I’ve been racing since the mid-90s.
“Honestly, I got tired of sitting around for two days because we go in on Saturday and usually all we do is qualify. And then, it’s like, ‘OK, what am I going to do for the rest of the day?’ So I sit around and watch this race. I told (wife) DeLana, ‘I’m just going to race this race this year because I’m tired of sitting around and watching it because there’s a lot of competitors and friends and people that run in the K&N Pro Series. So, we’re going to have some fun and see if we can’t win a race.”
At 18, Harvick began slugging his way through the Southwest Tour in 1994. Two years later, he graduated to what was then Winston West or currently the KNPSW division. The Harvick family made a limited run in trucks before Wayne Spears provided Harvick, then 21, to display his talent on a larger stage in 1997.
Two years later, Harvick was recruited by Richard Childress Racing. In 2000, he ran his first full years in the Busch Series (now Xfinity) and won the title in 2001 while running double duty as a rookie in NASCAR’s Cup tour.
“We’re going to be the old guy that just shows up,” Harvick added. “I have fun when I go and run those events. You’d love to win. You want to go out and do that, obviously, to be competitive. It’s a series that gave me several breaks and several opportunities to showcase what I did as a kid.
“When I was coming through the ranks, there were ranks. It’s different now. We used to have Late Models, then the Southwest Tour, then Winston West, then you trucks and Busch then Cup. There was a definite ladder system. And now it’s much different. There’s a lot less steps in that ladder and the steps are a lot further apart, especially the higher up that you go. It’s hard for young kids to come up.
“So if we can go out there and have fun and bring the West series some exposure and bring some attention to that, that would be my main goal, to bring some attention to the race and the competitors and all the people that are a part of that series.”
Harvick is an advocate for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to visit some of the more obscure NASCAR tracks around the country. While many of race fans don’t have access to the top tours such as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Xfinity Series, trucks could be the perfect vehicle to accomplish that task. And up-and-coming racers could benefit from the additional attention.
“The truck series used to go to a lot of these places,” Harvick said. “I still feel that the truck series should go to more of these grassroots race tracks and really add some excitement around these short tracks and get them the things that they need to have these tracks and do the things that it takes to bring these grassroots programs back.
“That’s one thing the truck series was really very much a part of as I was growing up because we went to Louisville (KY), we went to Flemington (NJ), we went to Mesa Marin (Cal.). I really wish the truck series would get back to more of that. I think you definitely need to mix in some of these bigger tracks, but I’d definitely like to see them go up to Oxford (Maine) and be a part of the 250 weekend. And bring TV up there and expose all the young racers like we did back in the day with the Copper World Classic (Phoenix International Raceway.”