Motorsports

Saturday, Dec 01 2012 11:09 PM

Driver reflects on life, racing at birthday bash

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Country music singer Craig Morgan, left, talks with race car driver Kevin Harvick Saturday evening at the FOX Theater before the Kevin Harvick Birthday bash.

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BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian

It was a party for good cause that also served as a good time. That was Kevin Harvick's Birthday Bash at the Fox Theater on Saturday night.

Harvick celebrated turning another year older in grand fashion hosting a night of music and fun, while raising money for the Kevin Harvick Foundation.

Harvick, whose 37th birthday isn't until next Saturday, and his huge throng of party guests were entertained by several country music acts, including headliner Craig Morgan, who performed all his biggest hit plus songs from his latest album "This Ole Boy."

Harvick was back in his hometown fresh off spending Friday night in Las Vegas at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards, where he received recognition for an eighth-place finish in this past season's final points standings.

Prior to Saturday night's festivities, Harvick took time to answer questions regarding his charitable foundation, NASCAR career, and life in general:

Why are you here hosting this party?

Bakersfield has been a great supporter of the Kevin Harvick Foundation. (My wife) DeLana and I started the foundation about three years and to be able to see the events kind of grow in the community and be able to do some events throughout the years in the community has been very rewarding for us. Bakersfield is very important to me as far as a town and the things that happen here. We love coming back and helping the kids and seeing all our friends that have supported me for years and all the new people and fans that come out and support the foundation is kind of humbling.

Who are some of the recipients that are going to be the benefactor of the event?

Everything we do is based around kids. Not one particular illness or anything. It's kind of kids in general. We just did a great event at North High a couple of weeks ago with the folks from Tap-Out. We gave away $11,000 worth of scholarships to some of the kids at the school. Got some new wrestling uniforms for the team. We got our Cal State  Bakersfield  full-ride scholarship that the foundation supports out there for a Kern County athlete. So it's just stuff like that, that we do year in and year out.

The performers at your Birthday Bash are all country music artists. How long have you been a fan of the genre of music?

I grew up in Bakersfield, so I definitely grew up a country music fan. Country music is a lot like what we do on the NASCAR side. Everybody is pretty down to earth and willing to just be a normal person. ... It’s been a lot of fun to meet a lot of the different guys and gals and to be able too see the support they have come forth with the foundation for events like this is awesome.

What are your thoughts on the new NASCAR Sprint Cup car that will be used next year?

I drove the new Chevrolet SS at Martinsville but I haven't had a chance to drive it on a mile-and-half racetrack which is where we really need to know how the car drives on a week-to-week basis. We have a majority of those tracks. We’re going to Charlotte here in a couple of weeks to do the first test for myself on the mile-and-half track. But to have the showroom car and the race-car be relative to one another in the way that it looks is something the manufactures wanted and the cars have turned out great.

You won the second-to-the last race of the season in Phoenix. How much momentum can you carry from that into next season?

We definitely had an up-and-down year. We got the year started off right then made on a lot of mistakes and weren't able to capitalize on some good days to get some wins. So I think for us it was important to go through those last three weeks and run well and get good finishes and not make any mistakes. To do that was really good. I kind of think that it eases everybody's mind through the winter but still knowing that we have a lot of work ahead of us just for the fact that nobody really knows what to expect with the new car. You got to keep your mind wide open because there are new rules, new aero balance and everything that goes with it. So it should a lot of work.

You became a father earlier this year. How has that changed your life?

It’s been great. It’s been really good for me. Like I said, we had a frustrating year and to see my son (Keelan) born has added a great balance to my life.

You’re now 37 and have been around NASCAR a long time. How has your perspective changed on racing as you’ve grown older?

I think our sport is different than a lot of sports. It seems like you go through those first years and just try to learn the landscape of everything that is going on and how to handle certain situations and the politics of the sport and the money and everything that comes with it. There are just a lot things you have to balance. As you get older, and I would call this the prime of my career, because really you've been through you've been through a lot of the situations and know how to handle them. And you know what you want in the car and hopefully you can capitalize in these years.

Last year you and DeLana decided to give up the car/truck ownership part of Kevin Harvick Inc. How much has than been a relief to you?

It’s been a much bigger relief that I had anticipated it being just for the fact that being an owner is 24-7. With the economy and where everything is, it’s a full-time job to go out and get the sponsors and maintain the people and keep them happy. It’s been a big relief. It’s probably been one of the bettor moves that I’ve made in my career, to kind of separate that side of it from the driving side of it and be able to concentrate on our son and my driving career.

You’ve won all the big races including the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400. The only thing left to complete your  resume is a Sprint Cup title. How bad do you want that championship?

Pretty bad. It’s definitely something that we’re trying to put all the pieces together right to make that happen. I walk down that hall a lot at home and that’s the one thing missing from the trophy case. So we definitely want it bad.

What will it take for you to win the Sprint Cup title next year?

It’s all about people and putting people in the right places. Everybody has the money and good drivers that are in the top 20 in the series. So its just a matter of putting those pieces together right.

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