Kevin Harvick returns to grassroots racing at Kern County Raceway

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Kevin Harvick returns to his roots with short track racing at Kern County Raceway.

[MUSIC PLAYING] ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Kern County Raceway, Bakersfield's place to race.

KEVIN HARVICK: All those hardcore NASCAR fans that we talk about losing, a lot of that starts at the grassroots level. And, you know, the reason that we lose a lot of those fans is because a lot of those racetracks disappeared.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, it's a Harvick homecoming, with the K&N Pro Series West 175.

KEVIN HARVICK: We have to build it from the bottom up. We need to reenergize that short track system in order to get it to the point where it needs to be.

[STORM CLOUDS CRACKLING]

These grassroots racetracks, those are where hardcore fans live. And when our hardcore fans don't have a racetrack to go to, that's hurting everything right from the bottom all the way to the top. The first thing we have to do is draw awareness to the situation. As you look at where racing is today, it doesn't have the same energy that it once had, and I think this is the case in a lot of towns.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

MAN: (SINGING) Oh-oh, to see--

KEVIN HARVICK: Today, we're back here at Kern County Raceway Park with the K&N West Series, trying to rekindle the fire. Last year, I decided to run the K&N West Series race in Sonoma. The reception was thanks for being here, and, you know, we appreciate you supporting the series, and we need help, and the car counts are low, and the exposure is low, and things have changed so much. And it really opened my eyes to seeing the help that was needed from a touring series, which is supposed to be our breeding ground for tomorrow's stars.

LARRY COLLINS: People that are involved with grassroots racing, they absolutely love it. It's their passion. You know, you might be watching-- seeing that third generation driver now in Bakersfield competing that-- their parents and their grandparents were in the sport.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

KEVIN HARVICK: These are some of the most passionate fans that-- that you will ever see. As a kid, you know, even if I wasn't watching the race, I'd be down in the dirt playing while my grandpa was up in the stands. And you'd see your friends that did the same thing on the weekend.

LARRY COLLINS: It's kind of what this town is about is grassroots racing. You know, the fact that Kevin's kind of coming back to give his support to the sport in his hometown, it's a big occasion. I can't say enough how much I appreciate him, you could say, not forgetting where he came from, because that's what he's doing.

ANNOUNCER: For the first time, please welcome Kevin Harvick!

[CHEERING]

KEVIN HARVICK: It was easy to come back to Bakersfield, try to draw some enthusiasm to the race track.

First thing I want to do is just thank everybody for coming out tonight and supporting the racetrack.

These are the types of events that we all grew up doing, and would have no problem coming back in. And in NASCAR would give us a platform to come to these races and make an impact, I think a lot of people would buy in. My main goal is to reintroduce a bunch of fans that probably hadn't been to the racetrack in a long time. And you're going to see some young drivers emerge. And tonight, more people will know their name, I promise you, than they did when they got here.

LARRY COLLINS: This sport, it needs a spark every once in a while. And it will carry for the rest of the year and into the future.

KEVIN HARVICK: There is short track racing all over this country. And I think if we can just start reminding people of how fun racing is, that's really where we need to start. If you're going to do something, you need to have fun doing it. And I think a lot of us lose sight of how much fun this sport actually is.

[MUSIC PLAYING]