Kevin Harvick has visited ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. headquarters several times during his auto racing career, but Wednesday’s trip will be most cherished.
Harvick is the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, a title won Sunday on ESPN’s last live NASCAR race telecast. For Harvick, 38, it is the first Sprint Cup season title of his career.
Making appearances on SportsCenter and other ESPN platforms as the circuit’s champion is fitting: In the 1990s, he cut his teeth competing in the late model stock car and truck racing circuits ESPN aired.
“ESPN is a big part of the reason I got the break in my career. I got exposed to people I couldn’t get exposed to [otherwise] while I was in California, growing up and racing,” the Bakersfield, Calif. native said.
Harvick recalls getting a recruiting call from Richard Childress Racing shortly after making an impressive showing on ESPN’s airwaves on the lower-tier circuits. Harvick competed for the Childress Sprint Cup team from 2001-2013 before joining Stewart-Haas Racing for this season.
Harvick cherishes relationships he built with ESPN racing commentators, analysts and reporters past and present including John Kernan, Dr. Jerry Punch (“he’s a guy I’ve always had great conversations with”), Ricky Craven and the late Benny Parsons, among others.
On both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup circuits, Harvick interacted with ESPN commentators during races. Playing the role of in-race reporter for ESPN viewers provided “the two things, in my mind, that are most important – exposure for the sponsors and access for the fans,” he said.
Harvick is open to future possibilities with ESPN: If he were to co-anchor SportsCenter, he’d look forward to working with the show’s Kevin Negandhi or – if he were to recruit another NASCAR driver as his partner at the desk – Clint Bowyer.
“You never know what’s coming out of his mouth next,” Harvick said of Bowyer.
The Sprint Cup Championship Trophy accompanied Harvick on each of his ESPN “Car Wash” stops Wednesday. That distinction made this ESPN visit the best.
“Any time you’re doing all these shows as the champion has brought new meaning to it, for sure,“ he said. “You’re not just here talking about what you could do, now you’re talking about what you’ve just done.”