Though NASCAR star Kevin Harvick doesn’t know exactly what Tom Brady has experienced since announcing his retirement last week, Harvick surely can relate to what the former Bucs quarterback has been thinking and feeling.
Harvick, like Brady, is a champion and an obvious future Hall of Famer. Though his performance has started to slip, he’s a postseason fixture who’s still good enough to win. He’s also a father with outside business opportunities and interests (including a future as a Fox broadcaster).
Unlike Brady, Harvick has had three-plus weeks to process the emotions since declaring this season will be his last.
“I’m in a really good spot,” Harvick said during a recent Zoom session with Florida reporters. “That’s where I wanted to be from a personal standpoint — to be in a good spot with my family, to be in a good spot with my team, to be in a good spot with people that I’ve raced for, to be in a good spot with NASCAR. ...
“It’s been a lot of relief to be able to get it all out there.”
Conversations about his eventual retirement started five years ago, but Harvick and his family began discussing it more seriously over the last year and a half. In his announcement, he said there’s still “absolutely nothing else in the world” he likes more than going to a racetrack. And few have been better there than Harvick.
He rose to the top Cup Series in 2001, taking a spot at Richard Childress Racing after Dale Earnhardt’s death. Seven months later, an injury to the Patriots’ Drew Bledsoe gave Brady his first career start.
Since earning a first victory in his third Cup race, Harvick has won every major Cup event: the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (twice), the Southern 500 at Darlington (also twice), the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis (three times) and the 2014 series championship. His 60 career wins are tied with Kyle Busch for ninth in series history. Somehow, 29 of those victories came after he turned 40.
But after a strong 2020 season — sound familiar, Bucs fans? — Harvick’s results have regressed with only two more victories since. He made the playoffs both years but was bounced in the first round last season.
At the same time, Harvick was being pulled in other directions. He has a 10-year-old son, Keelan (who races go-karts all over the world), and a 5-year-old daughter, Piper. He also has a sports marketing firm, KHI Management, and recently bought the late-model racing series, the CARS Tour.
“In the end, it was about my kids and wife and where we were at,” Harvick said. “And the timing just made a lot of sense.”
Announcing his decision started a wave of new work — sorting through everything from sponsorships and team personnel to paint schemes. His goal was to do it all as professionally as possible and to get everything out of the way before the beginning of his final season.
And make no mistake: Harvick says this will be his final season. There will be no one-off Cup races. The Feb. 19 Daytona 500 will be his last.
He has spent two decades shouldering the responsibility that comes with being a top-tier competitor in a series with the shortest offseason of any major American sport. He’s looking forward to spending a Monday without dwelling on how his car ran the day before.
“Whatever else I race will be because I want to race it and have fun with it,” Harvick said. “To be able to sit in the back of the trailer and drink a beer when I’m done like I’ve watched Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) do and enjoyed so much.”
Harvick has already gotten a small taste of what his post-NASCAR life will be like. He recently spent two weeks out of the country watching his son race and completely disconnected from the outside world — so much so that he didn’t find out about that other big sports retirement until a day later.
“I’m catching up,” Harvick said.