By Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.com
Newly Crowned Busch Grand National Series Champion, and Winston Cup Rookie Of The Year, Kevin Harvick has accomplished more in the last twenty months than most professional drivers will in a career.
In the past two season, the twenty-seven year old has amassed in sixty-four BGN starts, eight wins, twenty-eight top fives, forty top tens, eight poles, Rookie of the year (2000), and Champion (2001).
The Championship while running consecutive races in The Winston Cup Series, where in thirty-five starts he racked up two wins, six top fives, and sixteen top tens landing him ninth in overall points (phenomenal considering he ran one less race than any other driver in the top twenty five).
In what may appear to be an overnight sensation for the California Native. Harvick has been around Nascar since 1996 when he started in four Craftsman Truck Series events. Harvick continued to compete in the truck series from 1997-1999 with a cumulative total of sixty-four starts. Running two series at the same time is not a new prospect for Harvick. During his time in CTS the young driver claimed the 1998 Winston West Championship.
Harvick, burst into the national spotlight when he was chosen to fill the seat vacated by the late Dale Earnhardt, and has had to deal with intense scrutiny by accepting the famed ride.
"I've always said, I'm not replacing Dale Earnhardt, no one can do that, I am driving the car" notes Harvick.
Kevin continues as he reflects on his sudden move up to Winston Cup.
"Obviously, the way the year started, the way everything went in the beginning, the transition that we had to make, it wore on us a little bit. We were just trying to figure out which direction we were going to go. There were a lot of different scenarios that had to be played out. On top of all that, we decided to run the Busch Series full time, and I got married"
Harvick was originally scheduled to run for the BGN Championship in addition to seven Winston Cup events in the AOL car, making a more gradual transition to the premier series.
"A lot has changed in my life, as well of the life's of a lot of people around me. The Winston Cup season is pretty long, thirty-six races, with twenty straight. To take on all of that under the circumstances we were under, as well as the Busch series it has been a pretty remarkable year for everyone."
The most difficult month for the driver was July of this year. A total of nine races and only two (Chicago) ran at the same track.
It what many thought would be the breaking point for the double duty attempt, Harvick came through it with impressive statistics. Two wins, four top fives, one top ten, and no finish worse than twenty-fifth.
"I think we had a lot of inspiration to keep going, I remember lying on the hospital bed in the infield care center after we won the race in St. Louis. I was getting IV'S pumped in to me wondering what the hell I was doing. But we got up the next morning in New Hampshire, and when I got in the race car, I remembered why I was there."
The rigorous schedule was not only tough on Harvick.
"It was tough on a lot of people, my wife went everywhere with me. She went on every airplane trip, helicopter trip. It wore on everybody it wore on everybody in different ways, weather it was physically or mentally or just a lot of different things that wore on a lot of people."
Harvick plans to spend the winter down time getting some well-deserved rest as the enormity of what he has accomplished sinks in.
"I have finally had time to sit back and really realize in the last week or so that we have done a lot, and been through a to of situations. I know no one has ever done this before, but we have such a great organization that Richard has put together. There is so much organization, and so much effort going in to what we did. If you look at it in the way that we went through two years of experience in one year, under the eye of a microscope. Good or bad, those were experiences that I won't have to go through next year.
I think this has been something that has been good for me, and I think it's been very good experience for my career"
Harvick will return to Winston Cup in 2001. A partial BGN schedule has been worked out. He will compete in some events on weekends that bring the two series together. Although nothing official, it will more than likely be both races at Bristol, and the one event at Texas, tracks that yielded three of his five 2001 BGN wins.
Harvick will again return to the Craftsman truck series as an owner, with a new team.
He has just built a fourteen thousand square foot shop, and has four trucks ready to race. Driver Rick Carelli sharing the driving duties with his new boss.