As a young go-kart racer, Kevin Harvick nabbed an autograph from one of his idols, Rick Mears. The four-time Indianapolis 500 champion signed a photo of himself taken at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, adding a prescient inscription.
“Good luck, hope to see you here someday.”
Harvick made good on that, and more. The fellow native of Bakersfield, California, rose through the NASCAR ranks and in 2003 got to kiss the bricks as the champion of the 10th Brickyard 400.
Today, Harvick owns the title of Sprint Cup Series champion, having won on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the final round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It’s the pinnacle of his 14-year career in NASCAR’s top series.
But eleven years ago, he reached a different peak in winning at The Brickyard.
“When I finally got the opportunity to race here a few years ago, I mean, you know, it was pretty much a dream come true for me,” Harvick said after his 2003 win. “I really can’t put it all into words. I really don’t know how I feel yet. But I know I feel good, I can tell you that much. But it’s hard to explain how good I feel.”
Harvick had jumped into the iconic Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet that had been driven by Dale Earnhardt until his death at the 2001 Daytona 500. The car was renumbered to No. 29 and Harvick, in the most difficult of situations, shined with an emotional win in just his third start, a second win later in the summer and a ninth-place finish in points.
Two years later, he gave car owner Childress a second Brickyard win, following Earnhardt’s triumph in 1995.
“With Dale in ’95, we look back, that was one of the most special things that we had done, along with winning the (Daytona) 500 and championships. The Brickyard fits right in there with it,” Childress said in 2003. “Kevin, we’ll look back someday and say, ‘this will be one of the most special wins that he’ll have in his career.’”
Here’s a few more notable facts about the 2003 Brickyard 400:
- Harvick was the first Brickyard 400 champion to win from the pole. Only three drivers have done so in 21 Brickyard 400s (Jimmie Johnson, 2008; Ryan Newman, 2013)
- Among the drivers failing to qualify was Christian Fittipaldi, the 1995 Indianapolis 500 runner-up.
- Harvick’s win began a streak of Chevrolet winners that continues today. Jeff Gordon’s win this summer made it 12 straight for Chevy.