As Kevin Harvick’s retirement tour continues, one track that sticks out that’s left on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Sunday’s Verizon 200 will be the 47-year-old’s final bout at the storied facility. While the Cup Series hasn’t competed at the historic 2.5-mile oval since 2020, Harvick made his mark by winning three Brickyard 400s, including the final two events in 2019-’20.
Wheeling the No. 4 Ford Mustang, Harvick won’t be racing on the oval that his hero Rick Mears scored a record-tying four Indianapolis 500 victories. However, racing around the 14-turn road course still brings back plenty of memories.
“Indy’s a special place, and obviously I’d rather race on the oval,” Harvick said. “But the good news is, I won the last two on the oval, so I’ll always go out a winner on the oval. That feels good to me because Indy’s always been a pretty special place because of growing up a Rick Mears fan and wanting to race at the Indy 500 and all of the things that I wanted to do as a kid.”
As he reflected on his 20 starts on the oval, his first triumph in 2003 for Richard Childress Racing is a moment he remembers vividly.
“Winning in 2003 was one of the neatest moments because, at that time, you still did the victory lap in the back of the pace car and the fans there were really knowledgeable about everything that was going on, and you were able to just take that all in,” Harvick reflected.
“And really, for me, kind of living out your childhood dream was pretty neat. Indy’s just a special place, and for me to live that out as an adult, what you dreamed about as a kid, was pretty special.”
On Sunday, Harvick will also be sporting a special paint scheme honoring team owner Tony Stewart.
The scheme replicates Stewart’s final Brickyard 400 from 2016 where the nearby Columbus, Ind., native waved “goodbye” to his home crowd.
The Pegasus wings are back.⁰ @KevinHarvick will race the same @mobil1racing scheme that his boss and friend @TonyStewart drove in his final race at Indy as a tribute to him. #4EVER pic.twitter.com/YC6W8mOWHP— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) August 8, 2023
Heading into the weekend, Harvick’s track record on the 2.439-mile hasn’t been much of a bright spot in the past.
In two starts, the Bakersfield, Calif., native has an average finish of 23.5.
Regardless of his struggles on the road course, Harvick’s year to date has been stellar. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is fifth in the point standings with three races left before the NASCAR Playoffs commence.
Despite being winless thus far this season, Harvick is poised for one final playoff run with a 180-point cushion between himself and the cutline.