Drivers Concerned By Impending KHI Closure
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RICHMOND, Va. – Kevin Harvick’s decision to no longer field teams in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series surprised some of his fellow drivers Friday while others said they were concerned about the signal it sends about the 17-year-old circuit.
“I think we’ve all seen it for the past few years that we’re all in tough times,” said truck team owner Kyle Busch. “I mean, when Kyle Busch has a hard time finding a sponsor for his truck team when he is driving, let alone anybody else, it’s certainly tough. It seems like the only time you can really get anybody to come in and foot the bill is if they’re wealthy.”
Brad Keselowski, who also owns a truck series team, said Harvick’s decision was “certainly discouraging.”
“But I’m sure if you looked back at Kevin when he was just starting up there was a mass exodus of owners at that time period, too,” Keselowski continued. “It’s interesting to watch how the sport is going to grow and react to a loss of car owners like Kevin ’cause they’re important and he’s done a lot for the series that he’s been in, whether that’s truck or Nationwide. Hopefully, it sends the right message where we learn from it and grow as a sport. I feel like that, even though it’s a lot of work, there’s some personal and business growth that I am awarded for putting in those efforts.”
Harvick’s statement that Kevin Harvick Inc. wouldn’t field any truck teams in 2012 came two days after it was announced he was merging his Nationwide Series operation with Richard Childress Racing.
Since KHI entered NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series in 2002 the Kernersville, N.C.-
based operation has collected two championships and 39 victories. It currently leads the owner standings with the No. 2 truck, which has had five different drivers this year. Four-time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. pilots the No. 33 KHI Chevrolet, while Nelson Piquet Jr. handles the No. 8. Hornaday and Piquet are fifth and 12th in the driver standings, respectively.
Carl Edwards, who recently announced he wouldn’t compete full time in the Nationwide Series in 2012, exhibited the most surprise at Harvick’s decision and admitted he was concerned about what it meant for young drivers.
“If it weren’t for the truck series, my career would have been much different,” said Edwards, who won six truck races, posted 24 top-5s and 35 top-10s in 60 races. “I probably would have not ended up able to be racing in the Cup series. To me, the truck series gives an opportunity to a lot of people. I think it has a really bright future and people need to remember it is about guys like Mike Mitler and those type of guys that make up the truck series and, hopefully, there are a lot more opportunities for guys like myself.”
Tony Stewart also was surprised at Harvick’s decision “because they’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of money and effort and heart into that organization. That’s a major, major decision to make a change like that.”
Clint Bowyer said he wasn’t surprised that Harvick was withdrawing from the truck series because he was “probably a little bit closer than most to that deal”, but he was “bummed out” about it.
“That No. 2 truck, I’m having a lot of fun in that thing this year,” Bowyer commented.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t believe the motorsports community has seen the last of Harvick
as a NASCAR car owner.
“He has been a really, really smart owner in that (Nationwide) series, done a lot of great things for that series,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I think that being an owner is a whole lot harder than being a driver in the series. I tip my hat to anyone who tries to build a car in that series or any series for that matter.”
Jeff Gordon, who has focused solely on the Cup series since making his debut in it in November 1992, noted the truck series was a “tough business”, especially when it was done at the level KHI was doing it.
“They’re building top-notch quality trucks and it costs a lot to do that and it’s tough to recoup that investment,” Gordon continued. “I learned a long time ago that being a car owner in racing is a hobby. It’s not a business. At the Cup level there’s a few that have been very fortunate to have made a living out of it, but it’s still very, very tough. I’ve always know that’s not something that I want to get involved with. I’m partners with Rick (Hendrick), but he has the car business, the automotive side of it to fall back on, so I think that’s important.
“I’ve built up my business (over the years), but not necessarily a team business. It’s been licensing, merchandising, outside investments in real estate and different things like that. I’ve built some houses along the way, sold some houses. I think all of us need projects.”
– Deb Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment