RICHMOND, Va. — Kevin Harvick, one of the most successful truck series owners in recent NASCAR history, has announced that he will be shutting down his trucks program at the end of this season. Combined with the news earlier this week that Harvick will merge his Nationwide operations with those of Richard Childress, this marks a significant change in business strategy and operations for one of NASCAR's key multi-series entrepreneurs.
"The truck program, it's just a tough model business-wise," Harvick said on Friday morning in Richmond. "We've scrimped and scraped and got the sponsorship and things that you need, and GM has been a great supporter of everything that we've done, but from a business standpoint sometimes you have to make the decisions on what you want to do, and for us it just didn't make sense."
The move will have dramatic implications for Harvick's business obligations. Kevin Harvick Inc. will now be more personality- and promotion-driven, focusing on Harvick's fan club, web site and similar elements. Meanwhile, KHI's 140 racing-related employees will be out of work, and while there will be jobs available at Richard Childress Racing for some of them, many will have to look elsewhere. (Aside: as Harvick broke this news to his employees on Wednesday, we know now why Harvick couldn't meet with President Obama, and it makes more sense why he wouldn't disclose his commitments. Another conspiracy solved.)
Finally, KHI has a 70,000-square-foot facility in Kernersville, N.C. that will now be sold; Harvick jokingly asked one media member if she was interested in purchasing it. (The price was not disclosed.) KHI also will cease construction of chassis for other teams.
With Ron Hornaday Jr. behind the wheel, KHI won truck series titles in 2007 and 2009, and has placed in the top 10 every year since 2004. It's a tough blow to the truck series, which is in a perpetual struggle to attract attention and sponsorship. The departure of one of the series' marquee names will, in effect, leave the pathway clear for Kyle Busch to win as many races as he'd like; Harvick had joked earlier this year that one of the reasons he climbed into trucks was to keep Busch from winning everything.
Going forward, Harvick indicated that the move allows him more time to focus on other racing activities; he anticipates running more Nationwide events in 2012. He also hopes to spend a little more time on pursuits that have absolutely nothing to to with racing. "It takes an extreme amount of pressure off me," he said. "There's way more positives [from a personal standpoint] than there are negatives."
Obviously, there will be fallout from this move for weeks and months to come. For now, though, the news remains tough for fans of both the truck series and Harvick himself.