The NASCAR Cup Series has plenty to reflect on as it heads to Phoenix Raceway to decide the 2023 champion.
The championship may take all the headlines, but it isn't the only thing worth celebrating, as Sunday's race will also be the end of the road for Kevin Harvick.
He will make his 804th and final Cup Series start, and it will be a very emotional day for the 47-year-old California native.
It's amazing to think that Harvick's Cup career began at a dark time in the sport's history, and that opportunity would last more than 20 years and 60 wins — in addition to the 2014 Cup title. It has been one heck of a ride.
Harvick has had both good and bad relationships with fellow competitors, and some reflected on the memories of Harvick's impact on the sport.
The Athletic's Jordan Bianchi chatted with Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin, to name just a few, about what Harvick has meant to this sport and how they will miss racing against him.
"I look at Kevin and think of the opportunity that he had 23 years ago, and I can't imagine having to go through that set of circumstances and the weight that would come with that and trying to take that forward and to be able to do that and to overcome that weight and to win races at all three levels and championships as owner/driver at all three levels," Keselowski said. "I can't think of anyone else that's done that — at least not in this era to the regard that he's done, so I think that's a tremendous accomplishment. It's easy to lose sight of."
Blaney recalls watching the run Harvick had en route to his 2014 championship.
"I remember watching his 2014 season in his first year that he went to SHR, and he and (crew chief) Rodney Childers were dominant the whole year. As the younger guy who is just getting started, that was really neat to see him do that," Blaney said.
Hamlin reflected on the battles he had with Harvick in his career, and how he gained a lot of respect for Harvick during those close contests.
"Every time I try to think of one, it's not a favorite, that's for sure," Hamlin said. "Just the battles we've had over the years. In (2019-20) when we were winning a bunch of the races, we just had so many 1-2 battles. One in particular was at Loudon (in 2019). It was really interesting, as he knew what I was thinking, but I thought I was playing a chess move ahead of him, yet he was onto it. The way we battled there at the end was a lot of fun, and I gained a lot of respect for him as a racing driver."
It's clear Harvick's legacy won't soon be forgotten by his competitors.
His boss, Tony Stewart, summed everything up best in a tribute video shared on Stewart-Haas Racing's X page.
"Take it all in, @KevinHarvick. You Deserve it#4EVER"
Take it all in, @KevinHarvick.
— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) October 30, 2023
It's tough to see guys step away from the sport after so long, but no one can race forever.
Thank you, Kevin. It has been a pleasure for all of the fans to see you perform at such a high level for so long. Good luck on Sunday!
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