Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday that Kevin Harvick will compete in his final NASCAR All-Star race with the car number that started his Cup Series career, moving back from his current No. 4 to No. 29 for the May 21 invitation marking the circuit’s return to North Wilkesboro (NC) Speedway.
The news comes ahead of Sunday’s race (3pm ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM) at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Harvick won on March 11, 2001 in only his third start in the Cup Series. His emotional victory there came just three weeks after replacing the iconic Dale Earnhardt following his death at the Daytona 500. His Richard Childress Racing team quickly promoted him from the ranks of the Xfinity Series and changed the team’s car number from No. 3 , which made Earnhardt famous, at No. 29.
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Harvick’s #29 Ford for the All-Star Race will feature a retro design that pays tribute to his first win 22 years ago in Atlanta. Its sponsor, Busch Light, will also use the period-correct branding on the car’s hood and fenders.
“When I first sat in 29, it really wasn’t a free choice, but I definitely wouldn’t have done it any other way,” Harvick said in a press release from his SHR team. “Dale’s passing forever changed our sport, and it forever changed my life and the direction it took. Looking back on it now I realize the importance of getting in the cup car and then I won my first race in Atlanta in the 29 car after Dale’s death. The importance and the importance of keeping that car on track and winning that race early in Atlanta – knowing now what it means for the sport and just that moment in general to be able to keep going – was so important.”
Harvick announced during the offseason that this Cup Series campaign would be his last. He will join the FOX Sports Broadcasting Team after the season.
The 47-year-old driver spent the first 13 seasons of his Cup Series career with Childress, scoring 23 of his 60 career wins in RCR’s No. 29. Harvick joined Stewart-Haas in 2014 and has raced the No. 4 since.
The number 29 has been absent from the Cup Series circuit since Harvick last drove it in the 2013 season finale, his last start for RCR. The Childress team brought the number 3 back the following season when Austin Dillon took the seat.
Reviving his original racing number, Harvick said many of his earliest moments in NASCAR’s top series were also his most monumental.
“As this was my final year as a Cup Series driver we wanted to highlight a lot of those moments and a lot were made at RCR in that 29er car,” said Harvick. “When the All-Star race headed to North Wilkesboro — a place with a lot of history — we thought it made sense to highlight in a year full of milestones and moments where it all began.”
Harvick has competed in 22 editions of the All-Star race, qualifying for the main event of his career in the Cup Series each year and winning twice (2007, 2018). This year’s Non-Points Invitational marks the inaugural All-Star race at the .625-mile North Wilkesboro track, which last hosted NASCAR’s premier track in 1996.
The facility underwent a major refurbishment prior to the All-Star Race, but extra care was taken to preserve the track’s history and old-school feel.
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“I don’t know when the All-Star Race was the last time the most anticipated event of the season,” said Harvick. “Fans will show up in droves. North Wilkesboro is a great short track, the tarmac is worn and I think it’s going to be a fantastic event.”
Harvick heads into this weekend’s Ambetter Health 400 as the Cup Series leader, with three top 10 finishes in four races this season. He is a three-time Atlanta champion, adding wins in 2018 and 2020 to his 2001 Cup Series breakthrough.
Source : sports.yahoo.com