Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick’s contract is due to expire at the end of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. Will that mark the end of his Cup Series career?
With Kurt Busch retiring from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition, no active driver has competed in the sport for longer than Kevin Harvick, who is set to enter his 23rd season in the series in 2023.
The 47-year-old Bakersfield, California native, who was already the sport’s oldest full-time driver, is set for his 10th season behind the wheel of the #4 Ford at Stewart-Haas Racing.
The 2023 season is set to be his fourth since signing his most recent new deal with the Tony Stewart and Gene Haas-owned team in February 2020. Will that deal end up being his last?
Harvick admitted last offseason that his initial plan was to hang up his helmet after the 2021 season, but he instead opted for a longer deal to remain with the team through 2023.
Following a nine-win season in 2020, Harvick went winless in 2021 for the first time since 2009, and while he did manage to win twice to prevent the 2022 season from becoming his first without a playoff berth since 2009, he finished in 15th place in the championship standings, his worst finish since 2009.
Even without his 100-point penalty, he would have finished in 12th place, which still would have been his worst result since 2009.
Is it time for him to move on?
There is a case to be made for and against.
Interestingly, Fox Sports are planning to take the same approach in 2023 that they took in 2022, bringing in different individuals to put alongside lead announcer Mike Joy and color commentator Clint Bowyer in the broadcast booth each week. They opted to go this route after Jeff Gordon left following their 2021 portion of the schedule.
Taking this approach again in 2023 means that nobody is committed to the third spot in 2024, which could mean they have their eyes on Harvick. Harvick has long been considered the type of driver who could have success in announcing, and he has demonstrated that on a number of occasions in the booth for Xfinity Series races.
But at the same time, losing Harvick could mean that Stewart-Haas Racing will have to replace half of their lineup in 2024. While the team are no strangers to altering their lineup from one year to the next, having done so after six of the last seven seasons, they never made more than one offseason change during that span.
Aric Almirola decided to return in 2023 after initially announcing that he would retire after 2022, but despite the fact that he signed a multi-year extension, he reportedly still has the option to step away after just one more season.
What happens if Stewart-Haas Racing lose both veterans in one offseason?
They have already brought in Ryan Preece to replace Cole Custer, as Custer had yet another disappointing season and was demoted back to the Xfinity Series. Preece was once considered as the top candidate to replace Almirola, when it was believed that Almirola would be retiring. Now he obviously wouldn’t be able to do that.
Custer is set to join Riley Herbst, who really shouldn’t even be mentioned as a Cup Series possibility after three-plus winless seasons in top-tier Xfinity Series equipment.
Replacing anybody, much less two drivers at once, after the 2022 season could create a less than ideal situation for Stewart-Haas Racing, unless they can make some huge blockbuster signing that absolutely nobody expects.
But retiring may still be the option that makes the most sense for Harvick, and after more than two decades in the sport and one with his current organization, that is his and nobody else’s decision to make.