By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
The swan song season for Kevin Harvick will see the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion pay homage to his first career win in 2001, trading in his No. 4 for the No. 29.
The Bakersfield, Calif. native made his Cup Series debut at Rockingham Speedway following the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt. Richard Childress Racing renumbered the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet to the No. 29. Just 3 races later, Harvick earned his first career win at Atlanta Motor Speedway and helped in NASCAR’s healing process.
Harvick spent the next 13 seasons driving the No. 29 for Richard Childress before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing to drive the No. 4 in 2014. Fast forward to Harvick’s final season as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver, and at the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, he’ll swap his No. 4 to throwback, paint scheme and Busch Light’s logo included, to the No. 29 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing.
“When I sat in the 29 for the first time, it really wasn’t by choice, but I definitely wouldn’t have done it any differently,” Harvick said. “Dale’s passing changed our sport forever, and it changed my life forever and the direction it took.
“Looking back on it now, I realize the importance of getting in the Cup car, and then I wound up winning my first race at Atlanta in the 29 car after Dale’s death. The significance and the importance of keeping that car on the racetrack and winning that race early at Atlanta – knowing now what it meant to the sport, and just that moment in general of being able to carry on – was so important.
“I had a great 13 years at RCR and really learned a lot through the process because of being thrown into Dale’s car, where my first press conference as a Cup Series driver was the biggest press conference I would ever have in my career, where my first moments were my biggest moments.
“With this being my last year as a Cup Series driver, we wanted to highlight a lot of these moments, and many were made at RCR in that 29 car. So, with the All-Star Race going to North Wilkesboro – a place with a ton of history – we thought it made sense in a year full of milestones and moments to highlight where it all started.”
Harvick is not the first to change numbers for NASCAR’s All-Star Race. Kyle Busch drove the No. 75, Mark Martin the No. 25, and Jimmie Johnson the No. 5 in the exhibition race over the past 15 years.
The 47-year-old is also not the first to throwback to one of his first Cup cars in his final season. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Matt Kenseth each brought a little nostalgia with them into their final season.
However, Harvick is among the first to bring that nostalgia to the NASCAR All-Star Race. That nostalgia coincides with NASCAR’s return to North Wilkesboro Speedway. The All-Star Race marks the first Cup race at the historic track since 1996, though Harvick did test there with Richard Childress Racing.
“As a proud sponsor, Busch Light has been along for the ride throughout Kevin Harvick’s celebrated career in NASCAR,” said Krystyn Stowe, Head of Marketing for Busch Family Brands at Anheuser-Busch.
“Kevin’s final All-Star Race is the perfect time for us to revisit a bit of history and bring back the iconic No. 29 paint scheme with our 2001 logo as the ultimate ‘cheers’ to one of Kevin’s most memorable wins. We’re looking forward to seeing some nostalgia on the track come race day.”
The opportunity to turn back the clock, at least for one race, just adds to the overall anticipation entering the All-Star Race. The increased hype now includes the final time to see Harvick race the No. 29, something he hasn’t done since the 2013 season finale.
“I don’t know the last time the All-Star Race was the most anticipated event of the season,” Harvick said. “Fans are going to show up in droves. North Wilkesboro is a great short track, the asphalt’s worn out, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic event.”
Of Harvick’s 60 career wins in the NASCAR Cup Series, 23 came behind the wheel of the No. 29. As a result of his win at Atlanta in 2001, and success since then, he’s competed 22 consecutive All-Star Race events and won the race in both 2007 and 2018.
The NASCAR All-Star Race is scheduled for Sunday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.