This weekend's All-Star Race will be a special one. It not only marks a return to a historic venue, but it also will be the final ride of a race car number that is special to Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick.
The North Wilkesboro Speedway, in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina has not had a NASCAR Cup race at the facility since 1996. With this being the final All-Star Race start for Harvick, he will pilot a familiar number for one last time.
Harvick, who is coming off a runner-up finish at Darlington Raceway in the Goodyear 400, will climb behind the wheel of the No. 29 car. That was the number he piloted beginning in 2001, when he began his Cup career with Richard Childress Racing following the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. at the Daytona 500.
Instead of his usual light-blue-and-gray No. 4 color scheme, Harvick will switch it up for a white-and-red stylized No. 29 that he drove during his rookie campaign.
The return of the No. 29 is very significant for not only Harvick but also the sport as a whole. It will bring back plenty of memories for Kevin and fans alike. Harvick famously finished 14th in this color scheme during his debut at Rockingham Speedway on February 26, 2001. He went on to collect his first two wins that same season, including one that took place two weeks later in his first trip to victory lane at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Harvick spent his first 13 seasons in the Cup series piloting the No. 29, and even after joining Stewart-Haas Racing before his championship season in 2014, Harvick always wanted to return to his roots at some point.
The All-Star Race is always a good time; and with the big return to North Wilkesboro already being a huge deal, the timing for Harvick seemed perfect.
— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) May 16, 2023
In a statement from Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick shared his thoughts on the opportunity to run the scheme.
"Everything that started in my Cup career started at RCR. It wasn't supposed to start in the 29, but it wound up being my first in the 29 after Dale's death," Harvick said. "And to be able to put that car back out on the race track is something that we all thought would not ever happen again. But with Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing working together and making my crazy idea work out and being able to see the first win paint scheme in the 29 and to have it on the race track at North Wilkesboro is something I think we're all excited about. I know the fans are excited, but for us, it's an honor and a privilege to drive it one last time. It will be a fun night for all of us."
Obviously, ideas start out on a drawing board, and for Harvick, the idea of getting to run his old number and iconic paint scheme seemed far-fetched. With SHR and RCR being under two different manufacturer umbrellas, the scope of making this happen looked difficult. It seemed destined not to happen, until it did.
The idea started to take shape during Harvick's retirement planning. He pitched that he wanted to drive the No. 29 one last time at the All-Star Race. They discussed it and thought it over, and they knew they would have to get permission from Richard Childress. So Harvick called him personally.
"I said I would call Richard, so I called Richard Childress and said, 'Hey, we want to drive the 29 car at North Wilkesboro and run the first win paint scheme,'" Harvick said. "And he said, 'Kevin, you can have whatever you want. Do whatever you want. You've been great for RCR, and we'd love to work with you guys to figure it out.' And they figured it out, and here we are."
The anticipation for this year's All-Star event is higher than it has been in some years, with the last two years at Texas Motor Speedway having been all but disappointing in many aspects. Harvick has had so many great memories in the No. 29. Perhaps he can send it out with a bang at North Wilkesboro.
Thanks for all you have done for the sport, Kevin. Go get the No. 29 one more win.
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