'Forever tied to my career,' Dale Earnhardt next up for Kevin Harvick on NASCAR's all-time wins list

·2 min read

It’s fitting for the sport of auto racing. What goes around, by design, also comes around.

Talk about your full circles.

Kevin Harvick’s first big-league NASCAR race came on Feb. 25, 2001, when he climbed into a cockpit meant for Dale Earnhardt, who died tragically on the final lap of the previous Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Harvick was ticketed for an eventual Cup Series seat with Richard Childress Racing, but definitely not on such a heartbreaking timeline.

Just two weeks later at Atlanta, in just his third Cup Series start, Harvick beat Jeff Gordon to the stripe by inches for his first win.

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The first of many: Kevin Harvick hoists the trophy from Atlanta's Victory Lane in 2001.
The first of many: Kevin Harvick hoists the trophy from Atlanta's Victory Lane in 2001.

Chasing and trying to pass Dale Earnhart

This past Sunday, 21-plus years later, the 46-year-old Harvick won at Richmond for his second straight victory, following a 65-race winless slump. That win was the 60th of his career and moved him into a tie for ninth place (with Kyle Busch) on the all-time wins list.

The next man in front of him on that list, in eighth place: Dale Earnhardt, with 76.

“I did not know Earnhardt was the next one, at 76. I hadn’t really looked at the list,” Harvick said during a Tuesday morning phone interview. “For me, when you put it that way, it definitely brings it all full circle, when you look back at 2001 and everything that happened with Dale.

“You have to stop and think and say how ironic it is, especially when you talk about Dale. It’s obviously something that’s forever going to be tied to my career. And now to be in the same realm of conversation, especially in the win column, is something you have to be proud of.”

Harvick this past Sunday with the 60th trophy of his Cup Series career.
Harvick this past Sunday with the 60th trophy of his Cup Series career.

Proud, but too busy to bask. With back-to-back wins, Harvick has clinched a playoff spot with two races left in the regular season — Watkins Glen this Sunday and the 400-miler at Daytona the following Saturday (Aug. 27). Reflecting on a 21-year (and counting) Cup career will have to wait.

“It seems like forever, but living in the moment and living in the world we live in, you forget so much of what happened last week so quickly — you’re so focused on what you have to do presently and the task at hand.

“One day we’ll be able to kinda sit back and put all that in perspective. But this week and this milestone have brought up a lot of things and scenarios like that. It definitely gives a new perspective to the things we’ve been able to accomplish to get to 60.”

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Dale Earnhardt records: Kevin Harvick now chasing The Intimidator