By SCOTT VOISIN
Of all the professional sports, nascar is arguably the one that inspires the most passion and loyalty among its fans. With drivers like Kevin Harvick to root for, it’s easy to see why.
Harvick’s success story was born from tragedy. He entered the NASCAR Cup series in 2001 after Dale Earnhardt was killed in a wreck on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Having earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2000’s Busch Series, Harvick was hand-picked by car owner Richard Childress to replace the legendary driver. With Earnhardt’s shadow looming large over the newcomer, Harvick earned immediate respect—and fans. He won his first race in just his third start. But that was only the beginning.
Since then, Harvick has compiled an impressive resume both on and off the track. He has won two Busch Series championships, has victories at the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 and he started Kevin Harvick, Inc. (KHI), an organization where he and his wife, DeLana, are the owners of vehicles in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.
As his accomplishments grew, so did his fan base, which led to the creation of the Kevin Harvick Fan Club (www.kevinharvick.com). One of the many perks of membership is the opportunity to meet Kevin in person and obtain an autograph at the annual Fan Club Gathering in North Carolina. While other drivers restrict the number of fans that attend their events, Harvick welcomes each and every one of his members with open arms and a Sharpie in hand. For those who can’t make the party, Harvick gladly signs items through the mail and at the racetrack, ensuring that his faithful supporters leave happy.
Harvick’s seventh annual Fan Club Gathering was held this past October, and although rain fell constantly during the chilly evening, it didn’t dampen the spirits of the huge crowd who showed up to meet Kevin and DeLana. Afterward, Kevin took a few minutes for an exclusive interview with Autograph.
Scott Voisin: What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever been asked to sign?
Kevin Harvick: I’ve signed many cool and interesting things in my lifetime. If I had to pick one it would probably be someone’s leg, shoulder or arm, which they would get turned into a tattoo.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been asked to sign?
A birth certificate. The weird part about the birth certificate is that the boy’s parents named him after me.
When you’re at the track getting ready for a race, is it distracting dealing with autograph seekers?
I usually just sign while I walk through the garage area, and I usually always sign for kids or anyone that walks beside me while I try to get where I’m going. I don’t sign autographs when the time isn’t right. For example, when I’m talking with Todd Berrier, my crew chief, about the car or when I’m getting ready to get behind the wheel of the car. I feel those are inappropriate times to seek autographs as I’m concentrating on my job.
Is it frustrating to be asked during your off time or do you just accept it as part of the job?
I do get approached while out in public, but that’s part of being a professional athlete. I don’t mind signing an autograph or two for the people who are nice and wait until after I’m done eating or shopping.
A lot of drivers’ fan clubs hold a lottery for fans to attend an event, yet you invite everyone in your club to come out. What made you decide on opening your party to every single member?I don’t think it would be right to hold someone back who is a fan club member. We are very fan-friendly here at KHI. We’ve been doing these gatherings for a while now and they’ve gone very smoothly. It’s incredible to see some of the fans that show up at KHI from all over the country.
You don’t hear a lot about NASCAR wives, but DeLana is very popular at the gatherings. How did she get involved in the autograph line-up?DeLana has been a very big part of my racing career and always will be. She is very involved with Kevin Harvick, Inc. and many of the fans keep up with DeLana like they keep up with me.
Does DeLana enjoy stepping into the spotlight during these events?
I think she does. The Fan Club Gathering gives DeLana and me the opportunity to give back to the fans. She’ll sit and sign autographs and talk to the fans before I arrive.
Have you ever collected autographs?
I do collect autographs. I have Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre signed uniforms, as well as a baseball bat signed by Cal Ripken and a 2007 New York Yankees team-signed jersey.
What bothers you the most about autograph seekers?
I don’t like when people get items signed and turn around and sell them to make a profit.
Have you ever gone on eBay to see what autographed items of yours are being sold and if they’re authentic?
Yes, we have someone who visits not only eBay but other online websites to make sure everything is legit. We’ve come across a few problems in the past, but they were eventually taken care of.
Why is it that NASCAR drivers seem to be more attentive to fans than athletes in other sports?
This is the only sport where fans have access to just about everywhere. You can’t go to a football or baseball game and stand outside the locker room waiting for autographs. This is what drives our sport. Fans can walk right up to you almost anytime, and you always want to uphold a good image when it comes to the fans. We understand what makes the sport go round and that’s the fans. We have to thank them for that.