While Joe Gibbs Racing was busy dominating the NASCAR news cycle this past Tuesday, Kevin Harvick spent his afternoon racing go-karts against 21 of his biggest fans in the Kevin Harvick Fan Prix presented by Budweiser.
The event was the culmination of a Budweiser #SpeedTweets challenge fans have taken part in throughout the first 19 weeks of the season. The majority of men and women racing against each other, and Harvick, had taken part in the program and selected to come to the event. Of the two other contestants, Harvick selected one from his fan club, while the other won an online auction benefiting the Folds of Honor charity.
The guests made their way to Mooresville, N.C.’s GoPro Motorplex from 16 different states, including: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
After eight rounds of practice and a qualifying session to set the grid, they donned their newly acquired Budweiser firesuits and helmets and put their newfound skills against the test with one of NASCAR’s top drivers.
The competition on the track was fierce, as contestant Tim Simmons, a Ruskin, Fla., native, worked his way through the pack and, in his words, "did some blocking" to remain up front. As he and another competitor battled on another on the final lap, making contact at times, Harvick was able to slip past to take the checkered flag in first.
"I started sixth, I believe, got a pretty good start and got the lead after the first turns," he said. "Then, I led every lap until the last corner. Kevin passed me. I guess I won, but really he won. It was a fun race. We were doing a little bumping, beating and banging at the end, so it was a lot of fun."
Fans from 16 states joined Harvick on the track. (HHP/Harold Hinson)
Simmons explained when he was first chosen to take part in the event, he thought he would have to rent a car, get a hotel and everything that goes along with traveling to N.C., but in then end it was all taken care of.
"They got us airplane reservations," he said. "They got us rides everywhere, firesuits, a new helmet, they took care of the GoPros. It was really fun."
Coming in second to Harvick, Simmons was impressed at how quickly the Sprint Cup driver worked his way through the field after starting at the back of the pack. While they only ran together for a moment in the actual race, Simmons had his chance to learn from Harvick during the earlier qualifying session.
"In the qualifying we ran together a little bit," said Simmons. "He gave me a little bump. Then I ran off the track in the next corner. I didn’t know it was him at first, but after he got by me I knew who it was. We kind of bump-drafted down the straightaway for a little bit. I stuck with him a couple laps, then he finally got away from me.
For Harvick it was a great experience to interact with his fans and give them the feeling he has each time he pulls into Victory Lane.
"We had a great day for what turned in to a really good race. It was a fun event and in the end we all smell like beer and had a good time.
Tuesday’s fan race was the first time Harvick had been to the Mooresville karting complex owned by fellow drivers Justin Marks and Michael McDowell.
"This was a lot of fun," said Harvick. "Just to see all the fans and the enthusiasm and everything come together for this go-kart race, and then have it turn into a really good race on the race track is something you have a hard time planning out. It was a lot of fun to interact with everybody and a lot of fun racing with the guys on the track."
In addition to Tuesday’s Kevin Harvick Karting Fan Prix presented by Budweiser, the 21 guests spent half of the day Monday practicing for Tuesday’s race, before heading to the NASCAR Hall of Fame for a private tour and dinner in the Hall of Honor. Prior to hitting the track on Tuesday, the guests were also given a private tour of Stewart-Haas Racing.