“I’ll Never Forget” – Kevin Harvick Explains How He Came to Replace Dale Earnhardt After His Tragic Death

Published 12/22/2020, 12:19 PM EST
PHOENIX, AZ – NOVEMBER 09: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Ford, stands in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)


The NASCAR community was shocked and saddened at the untimely demise of the legendary Dale Earnhardt in 2001. Indeed, that period was tough for his family and the team for which he drove, Richard Childress Racing. But the show had to go on, and RCR picked a young Kevin Harvick to replace their star driver.

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The 45-year-old recounted the experience and process of replacing Earnhardt after that tragic incident.

Speaking in an interview, Harvick stated, “There was a lot of things that happened in a really short amount of time when Dale died, nobody really knew where to go.

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“So I think it was the Wednesday night of the next week, I got a call from Richard as I was laying in bed and he asked me to come to the office.”

When Richard Childress Racing asked Kevin Harvick to drive for Dale Sr.

“It was Richard Childress and Kevin Hamlin, who was the crew chief at the time, Bobby Hutchens, who was the team manager at the time. And I’ll never forget walking in, I’ve been in Richard’s office a few times, but that night was different,” Harvick reminisced.

Harvick was actually due to race full-time for the team in the 2002 Cup Series season. However, owing to different circumstances, he was offered the opportunity to take to the wheel of Earnhardt’s car.

He continued and said, “Richard was sitting behind his desk looked like he hadn’t slept in, you know, three days. They were just figuring out what they wanted to do and they asked me to drive the car.”

“At that point, it was really about just trying to keep the company afloat and survive, and not just have the emotions of the whole situation shut the company down.

“I had only been there for a year and you come into a situation where you’re like, ‘well you just got to do, what you got to do’,” concluded the Stewart-Haas driver.

Harvick paid Dale Earnhardt the most fitting tribute in Atlanta

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 4: Dale Earnhardt Sr. & Dale Earnhard, Jr. pose together at the raceway in Daytona Beach, Florinda on February 4, 2001. The Earhnardts and Andy Pilgram earned second in the GTS category during the 2001 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. (Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)

Sporting the No.29, Kevin Harvick drove the car past the checkered flag in a photo finish, edging Jeff Gordon for the win. It was the first time in so many years that a driver had achieved a race win in only his third Cup Series start.

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It marked the beginning of an illustrious career that Harvick has gone on to have over a period of nearly two decades.

When Harvick won that historic race in Atlanta, Dale Earnhardt would have smiled and cherished the win from a peaceful place somewhere.

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Bhargav Gopal

927 articles

Hailing from Bengaluru, Bhargav is an F1 and NASCAR author for EssentiallySports. He is a huge fan of Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. Bhargav also has an MBA in Sports Management from the Symbiosis School of Sports Sciences, Pune.

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