NASCAR: Kevin Harvick was going to retire after the 2021 season

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

On The Dale Jr. Download, Kevin Harvick said that the initial plan was for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season to be his last.

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season was Kevin Harvick’s 21st season as a full-time driver and eighth as a driver for Stewart-Haas Racing behind the wheel of the #4 car (fifth behind the wheel of the #4 Ford).

The 45-year-old Bakersfield, California native hasn’t missed a start since he was suspended for the race at Martinsville Speedway in April 2002.

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Following the 2021 season, the all-time recordholder for starts across NASCAR’s top three series (Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Truck Series) has competed in 712 consecutive Cup Series races going back to that weekend, and he has made 754 starts overall, second most among active drivers.

If all goes as planned, he will extend that streak by another 36 races in 2022 and another 36 in 2023.

But that wasn’t always the plan.

On this week’s episode of Dirty Mo Media’s The Dale Jr. Download podcast, Kevin Harvick said that the initial plan was for the 2021 season to be his last.

But just before the 2020 season, Harvick signed a two-year extension to keep him behind the wheel of the #4 Ford at Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, giving him multiple seasons to help develop the new Gen 7 car.

As it turns out, the launch of the Next Gen car ended up being postponed from the 2021 season to the 2022 season due to various COVID-19-related restrictions throughout 2020. This decision was made pretty early on, just a few weeks after the initial shutdown in March 2020.

So it was this contract extension that ultimately prevented Harvick from stepping away from racing before having this opportunity.

When Earnhardt told him that he thought he was going to be “done” and asked about how that conversation went down, here is what Harvick had to say about the matter in this week’s episode.

"“I was [going to be done]. ’21 was originally it. As far as, you know how it goes, as far as the financial planning and how life was going to look, it was all set up. It was all set up.“We started having conversations about what we were going to do next — and that led to two more years in ’22 and ’23. And I think at this point in my career, it’s really just about being at the race track with the group of people and the people that you like being around.“Racing the car is, I love the competitive side of it, and being in there and being able to develop a new car and have that knowledge — it’s going to be frustrating! It’s going to be frustrating, but there’s also that reward.”"

You can listen to the full episode of the podcast here.

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This, of course, leads to the following question: is 2023 now “it” for Harvick, or will he sign another contract that extends beyond that?