Sunday, May 28, 2023

Christie: Kevin Harvick in Rarified Air With Fourth NMPA Driver of the Year Award

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 19: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 19, 2020 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

With 58 wins and a championship over his 20-year NASCAR Cup Series career, Kevin Harvick is undoubtedly a future NASCAR Hall of Famer. However, by securing the 2020 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award this week, Harvick has asserted himself as one of the unquestionable all-time greats in the sport.

This marks Harvick’s fourth time to win the award. Which officially makes Harvick just the third driver in the 51-year history of the award to win it four times.

Only Jimmie Johnson (seven) and Dale Earnhardt (five) have more NMPA Richard Petty Driver of the Year Awards to their credit. Both Johnson and Earnhardt are seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champions.

That shows just how rare it is to accomplish what Harvick has done with this latest award. I mean, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough and even the award’s namesake Richard Petty were unable to secure this prestigious award four times. This just shows why, yet again, Harvick deserves more credit and recognition than he has received over the years.

The first time Harvick won the award was in 2001, his first season in the NASCAR Cup Series. Harvick was thrust into the spotlight that season with the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt in the season-opening Daytona 500. Following Earnhardt’s death, Harvick was selected by Richard Childress to help the grieving team move forward without the sport’s biggest star.

Harvick won in just his third start with the team at Atlanta. He would win again later in the season at Chicagoland Speedway en route to a ninth-place finish in the standings. Harvick also won the NASCAR Xfinity (then Busch) Series championship in ’01.

The Bakersfield, California-native also won the award in 2014 (the year he won the NASCAR Cup Series title) and in 2018 — a year where he won eight times.

At 45-years old, Harvick is showing no signs of slowing down. He is coming off of arguably the best season of his career in 2020, a season where he won an impressive nine times. While he was ultimately eliminated due to bad luck in the Round of 8 in the Playoffs, he led the series in just about every statistical category.

In addition to having the most wins in 2020, Harvick had the most top-five finishes (20), the most top-10s (27), the most laps led (1,531), the best average finish (7.3), the most lead lap finishes (33) and he recorded the least DNFs (zero) of anyone in the series.

It was truly a season for the ages, and it’s an absolute shame that he did not have a championship to show for his incredible efforts, but that’s how things go in NASCAR’s current wild-west shootout championship format. A format that re-racks the championship point standings four separate times before a champion is crowned in the final race of the season, which negates the need for being consistent for an entire season and places a premium on coming on strong over the last handful of races in a season.

Still, even without a second title, Harvick’s place in the sport’s history books and his incredible accomplishment of four NMPA Richard Petty Driver of the Year Awards speak for themselves. Harvick is one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR, not just in 2020, but of all-time.

Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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