Kevin Harvick Wins Emotional Sprint Car Championship

Updated: November 17, 2014
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It was November 1994, and I was jumping up and down celebrating Dale Earnhardt‘s seventh Winston Cup Championship. He had tied Richard Petty‘s championship record. There was nothing but joy in my heart.

Fast forward to the last lap of The Daytona 500 in 2001; I lost my driver. He died doing what he loved in an unconventional way. He was defending his son and friend, as they were racing for the win. People either loved him or hated him, I loved him dearly.

Richard Childress Racing lost their driver and Richard lost his best friend. RCR needed to fill a space (not to sound crude). Kevin Harvick, a driver from Bakersfield ,California, was already making a splash in The Busch Series for RCR in 2000 and 2001. Then tragedy happened and he got that fateful call. Imagine for a moment, you are being asked to drive a car that the late great Dale Earnhardt drove, regardless of car number. Dale was No. 3 , Kevin would be driving the 29 car.

He was a driver from California — NOT the South. This poor guy had shoes to fill that he did not want any part of, he knew his place. Three weeks later, Harvick did the impossible, he won in that 29 car at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The emotions of that win will live with many of us forever.

The look of NASCAR was changing, many drivers coming from all areas of the country — not just from the South. We had Jeff Gordon taking on the sport like wildfire, winning championships, as well as Tony Stewart, who came from, well, I want to say Indy Car racing but Tony raced anything and everything.

Then the Jimmie Johnson era came, and as a NASCAR fan I wasn’t sure if we would ever get out of it, he’s that good. All this time, I had drivers I liked. I was already an Earnhardt Jr. fan, but not as fanatical as I was with his Dad , the same with Stewart. I needed a driver(s) that gave me that crazy feeling when they won. I made my choice in Kasey Kahne and Harvick.

My son had already been a Kahne fan, and after meeting him several times, and seeing how he treated my son, as well as just being one of those athletes who was a great person, he was in.

I also chose Harvick — with everything he had endured at RCR, as well as that sarcastic ‘tell it how it is’ personality. I had to choose Kevin. Secretly, I already had and was blessed to see him win races and Busch championships in person. Now, it was time to wait — wait for one of MY drivers to give me that giddy feeling of joy that Dale did every time he won a championship. While waiting, Kevin’s tenure at RCR ended and he joined Stewart-Haas racing. I was all for the change.

This year the president of NASCAR, Brian France, changed the format (yet again) of how the championship would be determined. A playoff type of system that started with 16 drivers who had to win a race to get into the Chase.

Many fans hate it even to this day. It was a bracket of elimination that would end with four drivers and one race to win it all at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Harvick had to beat each other in order to be crowned champion. The last elimination round was in Phoenix and Harvick had to win the race in order to move on to Homestead. He did that. This week has been stressful for me. One of MY DRIVERS could finally win a championship! I tried to stay positive and said over and over Harvick would win it (just putting it out there in the universe and praying it would stick).

The race at Homestead was crazy. Many may say otherwise. Many are still angry at the Chase format. Especially, Gordon fans! Too bad, this race had all four contenders racing each other in the top five or 10 all throughout the race.

Every lap mattered, this was an old feeling I remembered and I was loving it. The last few laps Hamlin and Harvick were swapping for the lead of the race. It was go time. Basically all of these drivers were so close to the lead — you literally had to WIN IT TO BE IT!

Harvick went on to win the race beating Newman, who came in second, and I found myself doing what I did in November of 1994. I was jumping up and down, screaming and crying tears of joy.

Thank you, thank you Harvick for giving something back to me that had been lost for too long. Let the haters hate, you drove your ass off these past two weeks to win this championship, kind of like someone else I could rely on — years ago.


Robyn Vandenberg


Photo Cred (Robert Laberge/Getty Images North America)

One Comment

  1. Avatar

    The dogman

    November 17, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Great write up and read robyn!

    Like you said, it is Amazing the changes we have all seen in Nascar…

    I’m with you this time, a really special guy took the prize. Why to go Happy!!

    Thanks for another great article 🙂

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