Kevin Harvick to retire after 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season

Kevin Harvick is set to retire from NASCAR.

Harvick announced Thursday morning that the 2023 season will be his final season in the Cup Series. Harvick, 47, is in the last year of his contract with Stewart-Haas Racing and had previously said that an announcement would be made regarding his future before the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 19.

“I’m always ready for a new season. It presents new challenges, and it forces you to find new ways to outsmart and outrun the competition. But come November, when the checkered flag drops at the season finale in Phoenix it will also be my final race as a NASCAR Cup Series driver,” Harvick said. "It's time to call time."

Harvick was thrust into the Cup Series in 2001 after the death of Dale Earnhardt. He took over Earnhardt’s renumbered No. 29 car for Richard Childress Racing the week after Earnhardt died in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick then went on to be one of the most successful drivers of the 2000s.

His first win was one of the most iconic finishes in modern NASCAR. Harvick barely beat Jeff Gordon to the finish line at Atlanta in his third career start and fourth race of the 2001 season. The victory came less than a month after Earnhardt's death.

After establishing himself as a model of consistency at RCR, Harvick’s career really took off after he joined Stewart-Haas Racing ahead of the 2014 season. Harvick tied a career-high with five race wins that season and won his first Cup Series championship after beating Ryan Newman for the title. Harvick’s 2014 title came in NASCAR’s first winner-take-all playoff format.

Harvick then went on to win 30 races from 2015-20 and finished in the top five of the Cup Series standings in all but one of those seasons. His lone season outside the top five in that span came in 2016 when he had four wins and 27 top 10s on the way to an eighth-place finish in the points standings.

After winning a career-high nine races in 2020, Harvick’s been in a bit of a slump. He went winless in 2021, though he finished fifth in the standings for the second straight season. He was winless for the first 22 races of 2022 but snapped a 65-race winless streak with a win at Michigan.

Harvick followed that up with a win at Richmond the next week, but DNFs in the first two races of the playoffs relegated him to a 15th-place finish in the standings. That was Harvick’s lowest finish in the standings since he was 19th in a winless season in 2009.

Overall, Harvick has scored 60 wins in 790 Cup Series starts and is a surefire NASCAR Hall of Famer on the first ballot. He also won the 2001 and 2006 Xfinity Series titles and has scored 47 wins in just 349 starts in NASCAR’s second level.

“With championships across several NASCAR series and a NASCAR Cup Series win total that ranks in the top 10, Kevin Harvick’s legacy as one of the all-time great drivers is secure," NASCAR president Steve Phelps said. "Beyond his success inside a race car, Kevin is a leader who truly cares about the health and the future of our sport — a passion that will continue long after his driving days are complete. On behalf of the France Family and all of NASCAR, I congratulate Kevin on a remarkable career and wish him the best of luck in his final season.”

Harvick will be the oldest full-time driver in the Cup Series in 2023 and he's set to join the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth among retired drivers who became stars in NASCAR's heyday in the 2000s. He's the last active link to the 2001 season since Kurt Busch announced his retirement from full-time racing near the end of 2022 season.

Harvick’s impending retirement also opens up a seat at one of the top teams in NASCAR, though Harvick had significantly outperformed his teammates in recent years until Chase Briscoe made the third round of the playoffs in 2022. Stewart-Haas Racing replaced Cole Custer with Ryan Preece in the offseason after Custer struggled over the past two seasons, and Aric Almirola is back with the team for 2023 after changing his mind about retirement following the 2022 season.

“I want Kevin to savor every lap this season, to compete like hell and to take it all in," Stewart said. "He’s made all of us at Stewart-Haas Racing incredibly proud and we want to make his last season his best season.”

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - OCTOBER 30: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 BOOsch Light Ford, waves to fans as he walks onstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 30, 2022 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick is one of the most successful NASCAR drivers of the 2000s. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)