LOUDON, New Hampshire. Kevin Harvick has one last chance to set the record for the most wins in a career Cup driver in New Hampshire.
Grab the checkered flag and Harvick will take home a 20-pound lobster awarded to the winner, once kissed on the winning lane by his young son and also playfully chased after a family friend with a claw.
But Harwick might have to turn in his musket.
Harvick received curly ash wood and a custom handcrafted musket as a last commendation from the circuit for all his accomplishments before he retires from NASCAR at the end of the season.
The inscription on the silver plaque reads in part: “Kevin Harvick. 4-time NHMS winner.”
He would like to make five of them and edit the engraving. Harvick has a lot at stake in Monday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – heavy rain wiped out Sunday’s scheduled start – where he could not only equal Jeff Burton in Magic Mile wins. Just as important, he can break a 31 race winless streak and automatically qualify for the NASCAR playoffs.
“We were competitive for the most part,” Harvick said. “We had several chances to win races and it all just didn’t add up to get on a winning streak.”
Harvick, 47, has long been one of NASCAR’s most consistent and biggest winners. There was a 2007 Daytona 500 championship driven by Richard Childress Racing and a 2014 NASCAR Cup championship driven by Stewart-Haas Racing. He won eight times in 2018 and nine times in 2020 before the good times suddenly ran out. Harvick lost in 2021 and is currently 0-for-19 in his last season in a 23-year career.
Harvick earned a reputation as the NASCAR version of the 7th Major League Baseball closer. He won in 2014 in Phoenix when he needed a win to advance to the title race. Harvick then won the final and championship at Homestead. Needing a win to advance in the win-or-else race in the 2016 playoffs, Harvick found success in the New Hampshire clutch and advanced to the next round.
With seven races remaining before the 16-rider playoff field is decided, Harvick will currently qualify for the playoffs on points. All 11 drivers ahead of him in the standings are 2023 race winners behind William Byron’s four, and a strong start to the season gave Harvick a head start of 126 points at the cutoff. But a couple of surprise winners from the last summer races will certainly cut the standings and increase the pressure on Harvick to take the checkered flag.
“It hasn’t really changed for us because in 2015 we just decided to race every week like it was playoff week,” Harvick said. “If you have to shift gears, you are in big trouble. It’s a different way to race.”
Harvick drives clumsily into New Hampshire with a cold streak, finishing the No. 4 Ford 24th, 29th and 30th in the last three races.
Part of a winless drought — his last victory came on August 22, 2022 at Richmond — is just part of the game for the aging rider. Richard Petty won his 200th race in 1984 and not once in the last eight seasons. Jimmie Johnson won his 83rd career race midway through the 2017 season, the last of his career ending in 2020.
The rest of the decline can be attributed to general SHR problems. Harvick, who will be replaced by Josh Berry next season, is by far the best of them all. Ryan Preece is 25th in the standings, Arik Almirola is 27th and Chase Briscoe is 31st. In June, SHR made a number of organizational changes to its crew chief, but there were no immediate signs of improvement.
Harvick may be announcing his retirement from NASCAR, but the driver who once replaced Dale Earnhardt just days after his death in the 2001 Daytona 500 has a lot to do on his racing retirement list.
Harvick will join Mike Joy and Clint Boyer in the broadcast booth next year for part of the Fox Sports NASCAR telecast. He will turn his attention to Kevin Harvick Inc., his growing management company, as well as other business ventures. And he can spend more time on the track – only in support of his young son and daughter, both flowering racers.
Harvick may not have much time to get comfortable in the rocking chair given to him by friend and country music star Jake Owen.
“I want to be full of energy and do things differently,” Harvick said. “I found out and Dale [Earnhardt] The younger warned me about this, that I would be busier when I got out of the car than in the car. Because in the car I already had an excuse not to do anything. Outside the car, you have no excuse to do nothing.”
But if he can do just one more thing before he hangs up his helmet, Harvick would love to take that 61st victory.
Monday’s race starts at noon on the Magic Mile. This is the third race this season to be postponed due to rain, joined by Dover and Coca-Cola 600.
Joe Gibbs Racing took first place in New Hampshire on Saturday with Christopher Bell on pole, followed by Martin Truex Jr. Bell won last season’s race in New Hampshire.
This is also the third race in a row to be affected by the weather. Byron won last week in Atlanta in a race shortened by 75 laps due to rain. Shane van Giesbergen won his NASCAR Cup Series debut in Chicago in a race that was canceled early due to fading sunlight.