Kevin Harvick was never afraid to let NASCAR know what he was thinking. At 46, the 2014 Cup Series champion has been around for quite some time (since 2001 in the Cup) and has seen many changes in the sport.
This week, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver appeared on a racing podcast and said he has another major change in mind for NASCAR going forward. Shorter races. And he is not alone.
Kevin Harvick speaks candidly about past issues with NASCAR
Last year, Kevin Harvick publicly called out NASCAR a few times. In May, at the first-ever Cup race at the Circuit of the Americas, the driver went ballistic, directing his anger at NASCAR for allowing the race to continue in dangerous conditions.
“It’s by far the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done in a race car,” Harvick said. “I let go and the guy behind me hit me big because he never saw me. It’s amazing that we’re out there doing what we’re doing because we’re in race cars that aren’t made for it, and if you can’t see down right away, it’s not is absolutely not sure. Not even close.
A few months later, Harvick called the organization again over safety concerns, but this time regarding the Next Gen car and concerns over poor crash tests.
“As we sat in the driver meeting that NASCAR had with us to show us everything, I think the most frustrating part of the whole process is the fact that the safety element for the drivers and the conversation with the drivers, which was requested because by the drivers, was had at the very end of it all,” he said. “And looking at that, I think the guys who are driving the cars owe at least enough respect to at least be part of the process of what is happening. Everyone is just a little frustrated with how it’s all been handled.
Harvick calls for shorter races
This year COTA was dry and the Next Gen car has proven to be safe so far in multiple incidents. Harvick recently visited journalist Davey Segal on his podcast and the topic of race lengths came up. The SHR pilot didn’t hold back and came up with a take that will no doubt surprise some fans.
“The thing people have to realize is there will be a lot more precautions,” Harvick said. “It’s not the race we’ve had in recent years with a limited number of warnings. There will be a ton of caveats as we have seen through all of these races. I don’t think, from a driver’s perspective, any of us want to race 500 miles anyway.
“500 miles to Atlanta with a restriction plate. It was a long day. It felt like we were there forever. I think the Daytona 500 obviously should be 500 miles but the Coke 600 could be debated. But the rest of those races, they shouldn’t even allow them to have 500-mile races. To me, they seem like a thing of the past.
It’s safe to assume that not all fans will agree, especially traditionalists. But Harvick’s assessment fits a number of fans who don’t want to commit to three-and-a-half to four hours of racing for 36 weekends a year.
Hailie Deegan accepts for a different reason
Kevin Harvick is a 47-year-old veteran driver who has won 58 Cup Series races, the 2014 title, and is destined for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Conversely, Hailie Deegan is the 20-year-old Truck Series driver in her second winless season under her belt. She also shared her thoughts on the shortening of Cup races.
“Think about it,” Deegan said in a Twitter conversation last weekend. “As a rider you don’t sit and ride for half the race if the length is shorter. Nothing happens during most cup races until the last stage for this reason. plus, if you want young fans to care about it, you have to keep in mind that the attention span is shorter.
She offered another thought on the matter a few minutes later.
“Also, in my opinion, a lot of people don’t have 4 hours 36x a year to watch a race on TV,” she said.
While some might dismiss Deegan’s contribution as irrelevant, it’s simply a matter of numbers as to why his voice matters. In today’s online age, Deegan is an influencer with a combined following of over five million fans across all social media channels. These fans want to hear what she has to say.
And those fans are the future of NASCAR. If NASCAR is serious about growing the sport, it should listen to the spectrum of its fans. Deegan and Harvick provide a pretty good representation of how big it is, and they believe shorter runs are the future of the sport.
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