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How Kevin Harvick’s Driving Finesse Messed Up NASCAR’s Feeder System

Published 01/22/2024, 9:17 AM EST

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Kyle Larson is actually stepping up to the plate this year by tackling the “double duty” – racing in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600. It’s been the talk of the town, from his arrival in the garage to his practice rounds. The double-header is no walk in the park. It’s a real marathon, pushing drivers to their limits both physically and mentally. Imagine being behind the wheel for most of the day, clocking over a thousand miles, with barely a moment to catch your breath.

But here’s the kicker – Kyle isn’t the first to take on such a Herculean task. This kind of Iron Man feat has been done before. And not just for a single race, but for an entire season. Mark Martin was the trailblazer in this, but it was Kevin Harvick who really put it on the map. In fact, Harvick’s move turned the whole NASCAR feeder system on its head.

Kevin Harvick’s Rookie of the Year and Xfinity Series championship in 2001

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With Dale Earnhardt Sr‘s heartbreaking departure at Daytona, Kevin Harvick emerged as Richard Childress‘s top pick. Had he passed up the opportunity, Rick Mast was nearly set to hop into Earnhardt’s shoes. But Harvick decided to double down, racing full-time in both the Xfinity and Cup series. It was all about balancing – while 20 out of the 31 races in both series were back-to-back at the same tracks, the remaining 11 took him on a whirlwind tour to places like Myrtle Beach, South Boston, Hickory, Gateway, the Nashville fairgrounds, and beyond, far from the usual Cup circuit.

Harvick’s year was a blur of private jets, crisscrossing states, and adapting to two distinct cars across 29 different racetracks over 10 grueling months. At just 25, he proved he had the chops for it. He clinched Rookie of the Year in the Cup and bagged the championship in the Xfinity series. Even to this day, he’s the only racer to pull off such a feat. Plus, he landed a ninth-place finish in the Cup Series standings, despite missing the season’s opening race.

Harvick actually opened the floodgates, showing how top-tier drivers could dominate the lower divisions. That’s when sponsors like Busch Light caught on. They realized they could get more bang for their buck by having Cup stars drive Xfinity cars, either part-time or even full-time.

 

Harvick’s success was a key reason why NASCAR had to eventually put caps on Cup drivers participating in the Xfinity Series. They were overshadowing the up-and-comers who deserved a shot at the spotlight in the Xfinity ranks.

Watch This Story: Surprising Coincidence Ties Kevin Harvick to HMS legend Jeff Gordon with unique stats 

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NASCAR’s move to restrict Cup drivers in the Xfinity Series

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Back in 2011, NASCAR dropped a bit of a game-changer. Drivers had to pick their poison – declare which series they’d earn points in. Sure, they could still zip around and win in other series, but those victories wouldn’t add to their championship points tally in any series they didn’t declare for. And they could only pick one. As expected, the Cup veterans chose the Cup series, but they didn’t shy away from nearly sweeping the Xfinity series races.

The shake-up in scheduling meant that most Xfinity series races were now alongside the Cup events. This set the stage for a bit of an oddity in 2013 when Austin Dillon snagged the title without a single race win – a first in NASCAR’s modern era. So, in 2017, NASCAR decided to tighten the reins. They limited Cup stars to just seven appearances in the lower divisions and later trimmed it down to five. The move finally gave the Xfinity series room to breathe and become a real proving ground for new talent.

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The feeder system started working like clockwork after that. Sure, the drivers still get the occasional “bushwhacker” – a Cup driver dipping into the Xfinity pool – but mostly, it’s the Xfinity regulars who are grabbing the wins and the glory now.

Read More: Kevin Harvick’s Son Keelan Adds Another Feather to His Cap After Impressive Feat in Young Lion’s

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

1,229Articles

One take at a time

Controversies, gossip, and breakneck speeds? Count me in! While F1 has its charm, NASCAR helps me relive those "Roadrash" gaming days. My favorite among the drivers has to be Tyler Reddick. The 23XI Racing pilot is not only likable but also a complete beast when he is on track, more specifically, road courses.
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Edited by:

Rohan Karnad