During an appearance on the Dale Jr Download podcast, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. discussed their first year operating the CARS Tour and their plans in the years to come.
The news was made official in January that Earnhardt and Harvick had purchased the series alongside Jeff Burton and Justin Marks from series founder and president Jack McNelly.
HARVICK ON THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY
“For me, the piece that has been the most fun is the four people in the ownership group, and I think we have to include Kelly on that because she’s a pretty, pretty big piece of the puzzle that keeps it all going.
Co-host and Dale Jr brand business manager Mike Davis chimed in that Kelley Earnhardt-Miller is working every day to make the series better in ways that people don’t realize. Harvick said he’s enjoyed that the ownership group all come from different backgrounds but haven’t fought over anything to this point.
“Everybody looks at each situation from a different angle but I think the piece for me that has been the best is that everybody can listen to everybody’s opinion,” Harvick added. “I don’t ever remember anybody ever getting mad at each other in any of the conversations that we’ve had. … It’s like, okay, well that was a good point. That was a good point.
“In the end, I think we would all agree that it always ended in the best interest for the racer and the series.”
Harvick conceded that he never realized how many engine options or brake packages, the cost associated with tires and logistical considerations, how dynamic everything was until he became a promoter alongside fielding a car under the Kevin Harvick Inc. banner.
He said those were valuable lessons.
“Understanding that and making it better has been fun to be involved with,” Harvick said.
Harvick said he routinely texts series drivers, specifically name-dropping Brenden Queen and Brandon Pierce, and expressing to them what he hopes they can build the series into together over the years to come.
DALE AND KEVIN’S LEARNING CURVE
Davis asked both series co-owners what their biggest challenges were in their first season stewarding the series.
“I have been running in the series for at least a decade, but to Kevin’s point, learning about the challenges of the owner,” Earnhardt said. “I mean, I’ve owned a car but I really didn’t dive into the books of this.
I’m like, we’re racing. I don’t care what it costs, right? Kelley, figure it out. We have a lot of partners so figure out who wants to help us and we’re going to go do it. They’re all looking to spend money so just let them spend it here.
“So, the financial education of the challenges for the series owner right now, the delicate numbers of the series itself and understanding where you can get better.”
Harvick, with a laugh, said Earnhardt is the cheapest rich guy he knows, a common refrain from anyone who speaks on the topic. Then Harvick said he was surprised that CARS Tour was responsible for hauling the fuel from track-to-track each week.
Earnhardt said that blew his mind.
“I don’t know, the series has probably done this for a while, but the idea of us being responsible for those gallons and gallons of fuel driving up and down the road was just too much of a reliability for me to be okay with,” he said with a laugh.
Harvick said Burton had a harder time reconciling that.
The decision the series made this year of moving Friday practice to this evening was one of their better ones and was made after teams explained to them that it would save them a Thursday night hotel expense.
“I mean, a lot of these guys, it’s a business or it’s something that they do after their jobs so it has to make sense,” Harvick said. “One of the great moments I thought we had with the owners was pushing practice back deeper into the afternoon on Friday so they could leave Friday morning … and it we were like, wow.”
Harvick and Earnhardt both said they prioritized getting the Late Model races started in a timely fashion if tracks rented the series and paired it with local divisions. There were races that were starting at 10 p.m. if a track frontloaded their local divisions.
“There were some races starting at 10:30 and that was crazy,” Harvick said. “So working with FloRacing and the tracks to start races by 8 was huge … And when you listen to the team owners, that got them home at a reasonable time.
“And I wouldn’t take my kids to a race that started at 10:30, no way.”
Earnhardt said the first conversation he had with Harvick about teaming up to purchase the CARS Tour was during the Bristol Night Race last year. Harvick said Earnhardt should reach out to Burton too.
Davis was present for that conversation, a bunch of NASCAR needle movers on golf carts, talking about how to make something like that work, and how it’s something that will stick with him for a long time.
Davis said he remembers how important it was to Earnhardt and Harvick that the series properly police and teach young drivers how to race and behave as professionals.
“That one was pretty easy,” Harvick said. “I think one of our goals has always been ‘how can we help point everybody in the direction of how we want them to race and act and do it in our series first?’
“I think that was just one of those scenarios where it’s like, ‘Nope, that’s not happening here,’ we don’t want them to fight, hook each other in the right rear. We want them to race hard, and if they’re going to run into each other naturally and have disagreements, there’s going to be a line because there is just a limit to how we wanted it to be.”
Harvick said he didn’t want short track racing ‘to be a free for all’ while also discussing a minimum age for the series.
“I want CARS Tour to be a place where you can have hard nosed competition and not act like a bunch of heathens,” Harvick said.
Ultimately, Earnhardt said they were fortunate to buy a series that McNelly had in a good place inherently.
“We didn’t save the CARS Tour,” Earnhardt said. “We bought a series that was functioning and had all these protocols already in place, right? Jack already had made a lot of the decisions we announced recently.
“We went back to things Jack had handled before and we made very, very similar decisions too.”