Kevin Harvick Isn’t NASCAR’s Tom Brady, But Both Retiring Stars Do Align: Zach Dean

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Tom Brady announcing his retirement from a Florida beach Wednesday dominated the airwaves from dusk to dawn, but outgoing NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick didn’t learn about it until early Thursday.

I reckon that’s what happens when you’re 47 with two kids.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know that he actually retired until this morning,” Harvick said Thursday, three days before the green flag drops on the 2023 NASCAR season (unofficially, of course).

“I’m a little out of the loop. I’ve been out of the country watching (son) Keelan, watching him race, and haven’t turned on a TV over the last two weeks. So, I’m catching up.”

Kevin Harvick and Tom Brady are closer than you think.
Kevin Harvick had to replace Dale Earnhardt after his death in 2001. (Jon Ferrey /Allsport)

Like Tom Brady, Kevin Harvick had NASCAR crash course replacing Dale Earnhardt

No TV for two weeks?! Seems bonkers to me, but I’m also not a full-time Cup Series racer. Of course, Harvick won’t be either when the checkered flag drops on this upcoming season.

The former NASCAR champion, Daytona 500 winner and future Hall of Famer announced last month that 2023 would be his 23rd and final season at the Cup level.

Perhaps nobody has experienced the full range of emotions over 2+ decades quite like Harvick, either.

He was thrusted into the national spotlight back in 2001 when he was tabbed as the replacement driver for Dale Earnhardt after his death in the ’01 Daytona 500, and promptly won just three weeks later.

Not bad for a rookie!

“You really had to do things that you didn’t really know how to do,” Harvick said of his rookie year. “You didn’t know how to react to situations, you had to learn the magnitude of the situation quickly and then you had to deal with it.

“We got a crash course of how things worked at a high level really, really quickly.”

Harvick won twice in his first season at the Cup level and has won 58 more times since then. He scored his only career Daytona 500 win back in 2007, won a Cup championship in 2014, and had one of the greatest regular seasons ever back in 2020 when he won nine times.

Kevin Harvick won a NASCAR title in 2014.
Kevin Harvick may not have pedigree Tom Brady has, but he is a NASCAR champion. (Photo by Jim Fluharty/NASCAR Illustrated/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

No, he’s not NASCAR’s Tom Brady. Frankly, he probably replaced NASCAR’s Tom Brady when he took over Earnhardt’s ride all those years ago.

But the two are similar in more ways than one.

Both were forced onto the scene as rookies and had to replace stars. (Yes, Drew Bledsoe was a damn star. Look it up.)

Both won, and won A LOT. The championship pedigree is certainly there for Brady, and while Harvick doesn’t quite have seven championships, he’s still a champion, and that’s worth something.

Hell, he even managed to snag a Cup title during Jimmie Johnson’s incredible stretch, which was damn near impossible for the better part of a decade.

Both guys were fiery on the field and the track, and both very clearly never lost that edge as the years ticked by. Brady broke a billion tablets this past season, while Harvick is just over a year removed from basically putting a bounty on Chase Elliott’s head in the 2021 playoffs.

And now, as both fellas broke into their respective leagues around the same time, both are set to call it a career in the same year.

Tom Brady retired twice. Kevin Harvick wants to only do it once.
Tom Brady wants to film movies in retirement. Kevin Harvick wants to drink beer. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

Kevin Harvick says 2023 will definitely be final time in NASCAR Cup Series

Unlike Brady, however, Harvick says this is it. No future one-off Cup races down the road. No pulling a Jimmie Johnson and coming back to run part-time. None of that.

When the checkers wave at Phoenix in November, that’ll be it.

After seeing this past season for Brady, it’s probably not a bad thing to be a little different than the GOAT in that regard.

“One of the things that I’ve really thought about is, making sure that you raced long enough to make sure that you don’t need to come back,” Harvick said. “I’m not telling you that I’m not going to race, but I am telling you that I am not going to race (again) in the Cup Series.

“When I go to Daytona (for the 500), you won’t see me race it again. I’ve put in my time, done things the right way and made sure I’ve raced until I wanted to be done with that. Whatever else I race (going forward) will be because I want to race it, and be able to sit back in the trailer and drink a beer when I’m done like I’ve watched Dale do.”

Sounds like a retirement I can get on board with.

Written by Zach Dean

Zach grew up in Florida, lives in Florida, and will never leave Florida ... for obvious reasons. He's a reigning fantasy football league champion, knows everything there is to know about NASCAR, and once passed out (briefly!) during a lap around Daytona. He swears they were going 200 mph even though they clearly were not.

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