When the time finally came for the guest of honor to speak at tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards in Las Vegas, he didn’t quite look ready.
Then again, handling a rambunctious young son can be rather challenging.
“If I look like a wreck, it’s not because I have a severe hangover or anything,” new Cup champion Kevin Harvick said to open his champion’s speech.
“It’s because I wrestled a two-year-old down the red carpet and on the stage up here, so I have no buttons, torn pants, scuffed-up shoes, and my tie – Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. sent me a text telling me to straighten my tie.
“It’s crooked. But it’s all good though.”
It was all good, and rather fitting, too, that Harvick would celebrate his first Cup title with his family that has been with him every step of the way – wife DeLana and their young boy, Keelan.
“I’m able to enjoy moments like this more than ever because of her and Keelan,” he said of the woman he called “his rock” and their son, who both joined him at the head table this evening at the Wynn.
While Harvick may not have looked perfect up on the podium, his speech certainly was perfect. He thanked all the important people on his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team that guided him to the championship, including his team owners, Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, and his crew chief, Rodney Childers.
But he also made sure to acknowledge his former boss, Richard Childress, who brought Harvick to the Cup Series in 2001 following the death of NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt and worked with him through the 2013 season.
“He believed in a punk kid from California enough to give me a ride, and then he had the faith to bring me to Cup during an incredibly emotional time for him, [Richard Childress Racing], and our sport,” he said of Childress. “We did a lot together, and I’m not up here tonight without you, Richard. Thank you.”
He then turned his thoughts to Childers, who led the creation of the 4 team through the previous off-season and helped seal the title-clinching win for Harvick in last month’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a late pit call.
“He built new race cars and assembled a whole new group of guys between the end of the 2013 season right up to the Daytona 500,” said Harvick. “Under his direction, we accomplished a lot and became great friends in the process.”
Harvick then went into a long list of thank you’s to his sponsors, acknowledged outgoing NASCAR broadcasters ESPN and Turner Sports for their contributions to the sport’s growth, and praised the sport’s fans: “You guys are the most passionate in all of sports. You make this amazing sport what it is. Whether it’s a 600-mile race at Charlotte or a six-hour rain delay, you’re always there.”
In closing, Harvick referenced the now-famous “I Believe…” soccer chant, mentioning that it was he and his team’s mantra going into the Chase race at Charlotte that he ultimately won.
“I would yell ‘I believe’ and those crazy guys in the back would yell ‘that we will win,’ and believe it or not, it worked,” he said. “I sincerely hope everyone here has the chance to experience that same sense of support and belief of being part of a team.
“If it can happen to a kid from Bakersfield, it can happen to anyone – you just have to have the support of a team that believes in you.”
And with that, the new champ finished by speaking “I believe…,” which was indeed met from the back of the ballroom with “…that we will win.”
A fitting ending to a memorable season.