In a race designed to stir the senses at a track where decades-old memories are becoming new realities, Kevin Harvick will add another dose of nostalgia to NASCAR’s return to North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway on May 21 for the 39th running of the NASCAR All-Star Race.
For just the All-Star Race, Harvick will eschew his traditional No. 4 and bring back the No. 29. His Busch Light Ford Mustang from Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will sport a throwback paint scheme to the design Harvick used when he won in just his third career NASCAR Cup Series start on March 11, 2001 at Atlanta Motor Speedway when he drove for Richard Childress Racing (RCR).
Harvick wasn’t just driving any racecar when he won at Atlanta. He was driving the racecar that less than a month earlier had been piloted by the sport’s titan, Dale Earnhardt. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion died on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Team owner Richard Childress tabbed Harvick, who was racing for him in the NASCAR Busch Series (known today as the Xfinity Series) to pull double-duty and take over Earnhardt’s Cup ride. The No. 3, made iconic by Earnhardt, was changed to the No. 29 and Harvick made his Cup Series debut Feb. 25 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. Harvick started 36th that Sunday at Rockingham, but rain washed over the track just 51 laps into the 393-lap race. The race resumed at 11 a.m. ET on Monday, whereupon Harvick drove to a solid 14th-place finish. He then traveled to Las Vegas on Tuesday, married his wife, DeLana, on Wednesday, and was back in a racecar on Friday, competing in both the Xfinity Series and Cup Series races at Las Vegas. After finishing eighth on Sunday to score his first career top-10 in the Cup Series, Harvick headed to Atlanta where the first of his 60 career Cup Series wins was secured.
“When I sat in the 29 for the first time, it really wasn’t by choice, but I definitely wouldn’t have done it any differently,” Harvick said. “Dale’s passing changed our sport forever, and it changed my life forever and the direction it took.
“Looking back on it now, I realize the importance of getting in the Cup car, and then I wound up winning my first race at Atlanta in the 29 car after Dale’s death. The significance and the importance of keeping that car on the racetrack and winning that race early at Atlanta – knowing now what it meant to the sport, and just that moment in general of being able to carry on – was so important.
“I had a great 13 years at RCR and really learned a lot through the process because of being thrown into Dale’s car, where my first press conference as a Cup Series driver was the biggest press conference I would ever have in my career, where my first moments were my biggest moments.
“With this being my last year as a Cup Series driver, we wanted to highlight a lot of these moments, and many were made at RCR in that 29 car. So, with the All-Star Race going to North Wilkesboro – a place with a ton of history – we thought it made sense in a year full of milestones and moments to highlight where it all started.”
Harvick’s Ford Mustang for the All-Star Race will be white and feature the red stylized No. 29 that he drove throughout 2001 when he finished ninth in the championship standings, thanks to his win at Atlanta and a second victory July 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. Busch Light, the primary partner for Harvick in the All-Star Race, will bring back its logos from that era, completing the early aughts look of Harvick’s ride in the All-Star Race.
“As a proud sponsor, Busch Light has been along for the ride throughout Kevin Harvick’s celebrated career in NASCAR,” said Krystyn Stowe, Head of Marketing for Busch Family Brands at Anheuser-Busch. “Kevin’s final All-Star Race is the perfect time for us to revisit a bit of history and bring back the iconic No. 29 paint scheme with our 2001 logo as the ultimate ‘cheers’ to one of Kevin’s most memorable wins. We’re looking forward to seeing some nostalgia on the track come raceday.”
Harvick has competed in every All-Star Race since joining the Cup Series in 2001. In the 38 previous editions of the event, Harvick has been on the starting grid for 22 of them, winning twice (2007 and 2018). This year’s All-Star Race returns to North Wilkesboro – a track that first appeared on the Cup Series schedule in 1949 but has been largely dormant since Cup Series cars last thundered around the .625-mile oval on Sept. 29, 1996 when Jeff Gordon took the victory over Dale Earnhardt. It was the track’s 93rd Cup Series race.
“I don’t know the last time the All-Star Race was the most anticipated event of the season,” Harvick said. “Fans are going to show up in droves. North Wilkesboro is a great short track, the asphalt’s worn out, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic event.”
Fans wanting to get their throwback No. 29 gear in advance of the All-Star Race can visit SHR’s online store at store.stewarthaasracing.com for a full offering of merchandise, including diecast replicas of the No. 29 Busch Light Ford Mustang, along with T-shirts, hats and variety of hard goods such as flags, coozies and decals.