Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick will retire at the end of the 2023 Cup Series season and move over to the FOX booth. Based on his first four races, he’s not going quietly into the night.
Harvick has made four starts in 2023, and his worst finish is 12th in the Daytona 500. He finished fifth at Auto Club Speedway, ninth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and then fifth at Phoenix Raceway after leading 36 laps.
These performances have led to Harvick having an average finish of 7.75. They have also helped him secure the second spot in the championship standings behind Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman.
The race at Phoenix, in particular, extended Harvick’s historic streak. He posted his 20th consecutive top-10 finish at a single track, which extended his NASCAR record. Harvick also led another 36 laps to reach 1,699 at the Arizona track.
A Caution Spoiled a Stewart-Haas Racing Celebration
The race at Phoenix provided Harvick with an opportunity to add to his historic resume, but he still left the track with some frustration. The reason is that he had a prime opportunity to win his 10th career Cup Series race at the one-mile track.
William Byron and Kyle Larson dominated the Cup Series race early as they split the stage wins and combined to lead more than 260 laps. However, Harvick used a strong long-run car to chase down Larson during the final stage and make the pass for the lead with 44 laps remaining.
Harvick was in complete control at Phoenix Raceway as the laps counted down. He built up a lead of more than five seconds over Larson, but an ill-timed caution for Harrison Burton spinning on the start-finish line erased this advantage.
The field bunched back up and headed down pit road for the final time. Harvick opted for four tires while several others only went with two. This dropped him back to seventh for the restart while Larson and Byron moved back onto the front row.
The green flag waved with three laps to go, and Harvick attempted to take advantage of four tires by going into the middle of Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin. However, he was stuck in his spot as the caution flag waved once again for an incident involving AJ Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs, and Noah Gragson.
“It’s what I would have done. I’d always rather be on offense,” Harvick told FOX Sports after the race. “I just didn’t get a couple cars when that first caution came out. Kind of lost our chance. Still thought I had a chance there at the end. Those cars were quite a bit slower. They get all jammed up.
“That’s the way it goes. Just smoked ’em up until the caution. They did a great job with our Hunter Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang. Didn’t need the caution at the end.”
Once the race went to overtime, Harvick was able to make some more moves. He passed two people during the final two laps, but he was not able to chase down the leaders before the checkered flag waved.
“That one is not fun to swallow,” Harvick said. “We had a great car and didn’t need that caution at the end. We had a strong car and a chance to win. Just hate missing an opportunity when you have a car that strong.”
Harvick Heads East for a Mini-Superspeedway
The West Coast swing is complete, and Harvick sits in a solid position after the first four races of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. Now, he will head east for a trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The Closer has previous success at the Georgia track. He won his first Cup Series race at Atlanta before returning to Victory Lane two more times (2018, 2020). However, these wins took place on the old configuration.
Harvick only has two starts on the mini-superspeedway version of Atlanta. He finished 21st in the 2022 spring race after being involved in a multi-car incident. He sustained some damage after hitting Erik Jones as they both checked up and attempted to avoid hitting a spinning Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Cindric. Though the final stats don’t tell the full story considering that Harvick ran inside the top five at certain points.
The return to Atlanta Motor Speedway was better for Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team. He avoided several incidents that collected other cars, and he finished 12th overall while continuing his consistent summer stretch.