Sources: Kevin Harvick To Leave RCR For Stewart-Haas After '13 NASCAR Season
NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick has "signed a multiyear agreement to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing" beginning with the '14 season, according to sources cited by Marty Smith of ESPN.com. Sources said that Harvick will remain with Richard Childress Racing in the No. 29 Chevrolet "for the 2013 campaign." RCR Owner Richard Childress was "irritated by the report." Childress said, "I've got a contract for 2013 and this is 2012. I'm not talking to you about nothing (regarding that).'' When asked if Harvick told Childress he would not race for the team past '13, Childress said, "You need to go talk to them people. Don't talk to me about it." Sources said that under Stewart-Haas' plan, Harvick will "drive a fourth SHR Chevrolet," joining current team Owner/driver Tony Stewart, and drivers Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick. Harvick "contemplated leaving RCR the previous time his contract was up" in '10, but in "good faith, he chose to remain with the man who gave him an opportunity at the big time." Sources said that Harvick believes Stewart "has the ability to motivate him, and that was a critical factor in his decision." News of the Harvick move "came the same day RCR announced Austin Dillon will drive the No. 33 in next season's Daytona 500 with sponsorship from Cheerios." Childress is "openly grooming his organization for his grandsons, Austin and Ty Dillon, who are competing in NASCAR's lower national levels" (ESPN.com, 11/9).
BUDWEISER ON THE MOVE? In Charlotte, Jim Utter reported the Budweiser sponsorship on the No. 29 car "may well move with Harvick to SHR." The sponsor's current deal concludes at the end of the '13 season, and sources said that Budweiser "would be open to continuing its relationship with the driver" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 11/10). ESPN’s Ray Evernham said the “biggest impact" for RCR with Harvick leaving “will be what the sponsorship does, how that works with Kevin and whether it stays at RCR or not” ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 11/11). ESPN.com's David Newton wrote Harvick's departure "will be huge, particularly if he takes primary sponsor Budweiser with him." RCR after the '11 season lost driver Clint Bowyer to Michael Waltrip Racing "due to lack of sponsorship and had to shrink from four to three teams" (ESPN.com, 11/9).
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Utter wrote Harvick will be "for all intents and purposes, a 'lame duck' driver in 2013." Utter: "One wonders how well that will go over for RCR in general and in particular its sponsor line and future plans. Certainly we have seen situations like this in the past. Inevitably, there ends up one common denominator -- in almost all cases the driver involved ends up leaving early" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 11/11). ESPN’s Ricky Craven said he did not think Harvick and Childress “could work through 2013 under these circumstances." Craven: "Kevin’s too emotional, Richard’s at a point in life where he’s not very tolerant. Recipe for disaster” (“NASCAR Now,” ESPN2, 11/11). But ESPN.com's Newton wrote Harvick and Childress "appeared on good terms" following Harvick's win yesterday in the Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. Childress "put his arm around race-winner Harvick during his postrace interview." Harvick said he and Childress "will always be friends." Harvick: "We still have a lot of racing left to do and we owe it to our sponsors and our company to go out and do exactly what we did today, and be men and do the best we can for everybody." Childress said, "We look to everybody in '13 to go win a championship, and whatever happens, happens. It's a business decision. This is a business sport" (ESPN.com, 11/11).