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Kevin Harvick: An Underrated Generational Hero

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Dale Tanhardt

The leading NASCAR Betting Podcast, Garage Guys is your go-to podcast to help you get the bag in the NASCAR Trucks, Xfinity, and Cup Series throughout the racing season. Tune in each week for NASCAR betting advice, picks, and fun conversations recapping race weekends.

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We remember Kevin Harvick’s career through numerous moments. The triumphs, the tears, and the tempers solidify one of NASCAR’s greatest through talent, personality, controversy, and heroics. These attributes are objectively evident in the future Hall of Famer, but I think the general NASCAR fan base sleeps on the idea that Kevin Harvick is one of the most underrated American Heroes of our generation.

He’s also had his own roast; a NASCAR driver worthy enough to be roasted?? Yes, that happened, and that’s American Hero status.

It’s often pretty standard for many to typically deflect the “hero” label on athletes to use that term towards military servicemen and women, first responders, etc., but I cannot help to use this to describe Kevin Harvick because of what he’s meant to me as a racing fan throughout my entire life.

I’m 27 years old. My true cognitive ability to possess specific memories of watching NASCAR started somewhere between the ages of 4 and 5 years old—around 2000, and 2001. While I spent those early years obsessing over Jeff Gordon’s flame paint scheme and the all-around coolness of Dale Earnhardt Jr., I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Harvick.

Outside of Harvick’s emotional, sensational win at Atlanta a few weeks after the death of Dale Earnhardt, the attention went to Dale Earnhardt Jr. for his globally renowned wins at Daytona and Dover in 2001 that catapulted a mass of patriotic fandom that became lifelong for millions.

After February 2001, many of the massive Dale Earnhardt fans dealt with the “what now” dilemma that either you or someone you know or love likely dealt with. While many of Dale’s fans clung to Dale Earnhardt Jr., or eventually left the sport, a lot went with Kevin Harvick. Of course, he was driving Dale’s car and he had Dale’s team, but there was something about Harvick that appealed to the common man.

That “something” wasn’t just talent, and it wasn’t just driving Dale’s car. It was a level of passion and fire in his personality that you didn’t see a lot of out of the vast majority of NASCAR Cup Series superstars.

By 2008 Happy Harvick already had two or three careers’ worth of high-temper moments: ready to swing with Ricky Rudd, going full send on Greg Biffle, a football spike on Joe Nemechek (two altercations), on-track/pit road crashes and antics with Coy Gibbs, Matt Kenseth (twice), Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne, and a shoving match with Juan Pablo Montoya.

By 2008: 11 wins, 10 “fights”.

That little “something” I mentioned earlier…

Harvick is a man of the people. He’s a man who says what he wants when he wants. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He “tells it like it is”. He gets in the face of anybody—afraid of nothing. He didn’t cave to sponsors or PR concerns as you see in many of today’s drivers and still was represented by some of the most notorious brands in NASCAR to the very end of his career.

The ability for Kevin Harvick to win a Daytona 500, a NASCAR Cup Series Championship, over 60 Cup races, and over 120 NASCAR National Series wins while possessing the ability to flip a switch from a calm and collected, charismatic dude to a certified psychopath is unprecedented. You could say Tony Stewart possesses it as well.

And coincidentally, one other guy as well.

It’s pretty ironic that the kid who replaced The Man turned out to take some of what The Man was known for and intensified it.

There’s that little “something” again…

The level of intensity, talent, and polarization Kevin Harvick rippled through the sport of NASCAR for 23 years defines him, in my opinion, as an underrated American hero. There’s not another person on this planet or in this universe that could’ve hopped in that car after Dale Earnhardt’s passing and been as spectacular as Kevin Harvick. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a prospect in racing in that much of a dramatic spot that was more unphased by pressure.

After blossoming in the latter half of his career and maintaining that animosity with the next era of drivers: the Dillons, Logano, Elliott, etc., Harvick’s career gained more meaning by the day as his time dwindled down as a Cup Series driver.

Kevin Harvick, through all the calculated chaos, made it 23 years as a Cup Series driver. Amidst the retirements of superstars Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, and Kurt Busch, Kevin outlasted them all. He’s the final remanence of our childhood (if you’re like early 20’s to mid 30’s).

He’ll always be a hero to Richard Childress Racing, he’ll always be a hero to Stewart Haas Racing, he’ll always be a hero to NASCAR, and he’ll always be a hero to me—and hopefully you too.

..especially for punching Jimmie Johnson. He struck the fear in that man.   

But seriously, watch the Budweiser Roast of Kevin Harvick from 2011. It’s amazing. American Hero Status: confirmed.

I’m beyond thankful that Kevin Harvick has been a major part of my life for nearly a quarter century. I’m excited to see him in the broadcast booth and expanding on his extensive career inside of NASCAR, but I’m gonna miss the absolute s**t out of him on the racetrack. Tell me about your favorite Kevin Harvick memory in the comments below and join me in tears as he hangs up the helmet, and we hang up a generation of NASCAR forever.

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The leading NASCAR Betting Podcast, Garage Guys is your go-to podcast to help you get the bag in the NASCAR Trucks, Xfinity, and Cup Series throughout the racing season. Tune in each week for NASCAR betting advice, picks, and fun conversations recapping race weekends.

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