When the green flag waves for the upcoming NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 19, Kevin Harvick will achieve a milestone start in his Cup career. By competing in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at the Lone Star state, Harvick will become the 17th competitor to reach 700 starts in NASCAR’s premier series.
Entering the 2001 season, Harvick was initially slated to compete in select Cup races for Richard Childress Racing while competing for the team on a full-time basis in the Xfinity Series. Everything, however, changed in February when an accident on the final lap and final corner of the Daytona 500 claimed the life of seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt. The following week, Harvick was promoted to a full-time racing schedule in the Cup level and in the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet, renumbered from 3. He made his series debut at Rockingham’s North Carolina Speedway, where he finished 14th. Two races later, Harvick edged Jeff Gordon by 0.006 seconds to score his first Cup career win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in his third series start. By then, Harvick became the fastest first-time Cup winner in the modern era. The win was well received from the crowd and in the NASCAR community as Harvick paid tribute to Earnhardt by performing a victory lap the opposite direction of the track while saluting three fingers to the crowd.
Harvick went on to clinch his second Cup career victory in the inaugural race at Chicagoland Speedway in July. When the 2001 season concluded, he recorded six top-five results and 16 top-10 results in 35 of the 36-race schedule, and he settled in ninth in the final standings. In addition, Harvick was named the recipient of the 2001 Cup Rookie-of-the-Year award. Ironically, Harvick would also win his first Xfinity Series championship.
In 2002, his sophomore Cup season, Harvick recorded two top-10 results in the first seven races of the season. The following week in April, Harvick was suspended for the Cup race at Martinsville Speedway for rough driving in the Truck Series at Martinsville a day earlier, where he intentionally spun Coy Gibbs during the race. Kenny Wallace drove Harvick’s No. 29 car, where he finished 32nd. Though Harvick returned the following week, his next nine finishes were outside the top 10, with a best result coming at Daytona in July, where he won his first Cup career pole and finished 11th. By then, his crew chief, Kevin Hamlin, was replaced by Gil Martin. The following race at Chicagoland, Harvick rallied from a spin to beat Jeff Gordon and claim his first victory of the 2002 season. Despite scoring his third Cup career win, Harvick achieved five top-five results and eight top-10 results throughout the 2002 season as he concluded the season in 21st in the final standings.
Harvick and the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet team rebounded in 2003 by winning the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the pole in August. He also achieved 11 top-five results and 18 top-10 results while leading a career-high 569 laps and settling in fifth in the final standings. He started the season working with Gil Martin, but concluded the season with Todd Berrier. By then, Harvick had surpassed 100 Cup career starts.
After going winless in 2004 and winning once in 2005, finishing 14th in the final standings in both seasons, Harvick’s first breakout year came in 2006, where he won five races at four different tracks, including Phoenix, Watkins Glen, Richmond and New Hampshire. Making his first Chase appearance, he concluded the season in fourth in the final standings while achieving a pole, 15 top-five results and 20 top-10 results along with 895 laps led. To go along with his successful 2006 campaign in the Cup Series, where he surpassed 200 series starts, Harvick also won his second Xfinity Series championship.
In 2007, sporting the Shell/Pennzoil colors on his No. 29 Chevrolet, Harvick kickstarted a new season of racing by edging Mark Martin by 0.020 seconds to win the 49th running of the Daytona 500. He went on to win his first All-Star Race at Charlotte’s Lowe’s Motor Speedway in May while cashing in one million dollars. Harvick went on to record four top-five results and 15 top-10 results throughout the 2007 Cup season, which he concluded in 10th in the final standings.
Harvick went winless the following season, but achieved seven top-five results and 19 top-10 results to conclude the season in fourth in the final standings. In 2009, Harvick won the non-point Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway in February and finished second in the rain-shortened Daytona 500 to Matt Kenseth a week later. The season, however, was mired with inconsistent runs for Harvick and the No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet team as Harvick only achieved five top-five results and nine top-10 results before concluding the season in 19th in the final standings. Early in the season, Todd Berrier was replaced by Gil Martin as Harvick’s crew chief. By then, Harvick had surpassed 300 Cup career starts.
Harvick rallied the following season by winning three races at three different tracks, including Talladega, Daytona and at Michigan. With 16 top-five results, 26 top-10 results and serving as the points leader for the majority of the regular season, Harvick remained in title contention through the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he concluded the season in third in the final standings and 41 points shy of the title to Jimmie Johnson.
In 2011, Harvick welcomed Budweiser and Jimmy John’s as his new Cup primary sponsors when Shell/Pennzoil left Richard Childress Racing for Penske Racing. Harvick achieved four wins in 2011 at four different tracks, including Auto Club Speedway, Martinsville, Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 and at Richmond. He achieved nine top-five results and 19 top-10 results throughout the season before concluding the year in third in the final standings. In 2012, Harvick surpassed 400 starts in the Cup level. During the season, he achieved his lone victory at Phoenix, the penultimate race of the year, to go along with five top-five results and 14 top-10 results. He finished the season in eighth in the final standings.
In 2013, Harvick’s final year racing for Richard Childress Racing, he achieved four victories, nine top-five results and 21 top-10 results while also recording his first pole award since 2006. He remained in contention through the finale before he concluded the season in third in the final standings, 34 points shy of the title to Johnson.
The 2014 season came with a fresh start for Harvick, who moved to Stewart-Haas Racing to drive the No. 4 Chevrolet SS while paired with crew chief Rodney Childers, but having familiar sponsors like Budweiser and Jimmy John’s supporting him. After finishing 13th in the Daytona 500 while being involved in a wreck on the final lap, Harvick led a race-high 224 laps and recorded his first victory with SHR at Phoenix the following week in March. He would record his second victory of the season at Darlington Raceway, the Southern 500, in April. The two victories throughout the regular season were enough for him to qualify for the Playoffs. In October, Harvick scored a win at Charlotte Motor Speedway to advance to the Round of 8. A week after making his 500th Cup start at Texas Motor Speedway in November, Harvick recorded a clutch win at Phoenix to advance to the Championship Round with an opportunity to win his first Cup title. During the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Harvick benefited late on fresh tires to beat Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, and claim his first NASCAR Cup championship by winning the finale. With the title, Harvick became the 30th Cup competitor to win a championship in NASCAR’s premier series as he also recorded the second title for Stewart-Haas Racing and the first for crew chief Rodney Childers.
Between 2015 and 2016, Harvick recorded seven victories, three poles, 40 top-five results, 55 top-10 results and led a combined 3678 laps with a best points result of second in 2015 to Kyle Busch. In 2017, Harvick remained with Stewart-Haas Racing, but was racing in Fords when SHR decided to field Fords in NASCAR following a longtime partnership with Chevrolet. Throughout the season, Harvick recorded two victories at two different tracks, Sonoma and Texas. To go along with four poles, 14 top-five results and 23 top-10 results, Harvick raced his way to the Championship Round, but concluded the season in third in the final standings. By then, Harvick had surpassed 600 Cup starts.
The 2018 season was a career year for Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team, where the driver won a career-high eight races while also achieving four poles, 23 top-five results and 29 top-10 results, stats that allowed Harvick to make the Championship Round at Homestead. Harvick, however, concluded the season in third in the final standings for the second consecutive year.
Last season, Harvick won four races at four different tracks, including New Hampshire, Michigan, Indianapolis and Texas. To go along with six poles, 15 top-five results and 26 top-10 results, Harvick made the Championship Round for the fifth time in the last six years. For the third consecutive year, Harvick concluded the season in third in the final standings.
This season, in his 20th full-time season in the Cup Series, Harvick has achieved four Cup victories, the wins coming at Darlington, Atlanta, Pocono and at Indianapolis, to tally his win total in the Cup Series to 53. He has also recorded 10 top-five results and 14 top-10 results as he leads the regular-season standings by 88 points over Brad Keselowski.
Prior to the 2020 Cup season, only 15 competitors had achieved 700 starts in NASCAR’s premier series. Harvick is set to become the second competitor to reach the 700-mark start in the Cup level. On July 5, Kurt Busch, a former teammate to Harvick at Stewart-Haas Racing, made his 700th career start in his 20th full-time season of racing.
Catch Harvick’s milestone start in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas on July 19 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.