NASCAR: Kevin Harvick on the verge of breaking an all-time record

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Kevin Harvick is slated to break a huge NASCAR all-time record in the 2021 Cup Series season if all goes according to plan.

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season saw Kevin Harvick come up shy of his second career championship despite leading the series with nine wins, the most by a driver in a single season since 2008, 20 top five finishes, 27 top 10 finishes, 1,531 laps led and an average finish of 7.33, the best for any driver since 2007.

It marked the fourth time that Harvick failed to win the championship despite scoring the most points throughout the year, excluding the playoff points resets.

However, Harvick’s 2020 season positioned him to break a significant record not only in the Cup Series but across all of NASCAR in 2021, simply because he completed the entire season.

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With his 1,186th career NASCAR start at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the 2019 Truck Series season finale, Joe Nemechek broke Richard Petty’s all-time starts record across the Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Truck Series. Petty competed in 1,185 races, all in the Cup Series.

Nemechek went on to compete in the 2019 Xfinity Series and Cup Series season finales at the same track, and he competed in eight Xfinity Series races and one Truck Series race in 2020, bringing his career start total to a record 1,197 (674 Cup Series starts, 453 Xfinity Series starts and 70 Truck Series starts) entering 2021. He has competed in the sport on some level in each of the last 32 years.

By competing in all 36 races on the 2020 Cup Series schedule, Harvick has now competed in 1,187 NASCAR races.

He has competed in 718 Cup Series races, 346 Xfinity Series races and 123 Truck Series races. All he needs to do is run the full 2021 schedule and not have Nemechek run in more than 25 races this year, and he will be the new recordholder with 1,223 career starts.

Nemechek, who has competed in NASCAR on some level for 32 straight years, does not have confirmed plans for the 2021 season.

The closest driver behind Harvick among active drivers is Kyle Busch, whose 570 Cup Series starts, 357 Xfinity Series starts and 155 Truck Series starts give him 1,082 starts throughout his career. He trails only Nemechek, Harvick, Petty and Mark Martin (1,143) on the all-time list.

With Busch being 35 years old and Harvick being 45, Busch is well-positioned to break whatever the record ends up being several years down the road.

But after 2021 and at least for a few seasons after that, it should belong to “The Closer”.

Harvick is also positioned to potentially break the all-time consecutive Cup Series starts record, which currently sits at 797 and is held by Jeff Gordon, although he can’t do that this season. He has competed in the last 676 races after missing the race at Martinsville Speedway in April of 2001 as a result of a suspension.

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He is under contract with Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season after signing a multi-year extension last February, so he would be at 784 consecutive starts at the end 2023 season. One more year on his contract and no unexpected absences would do the trick.