I had the awesome opportunity to meet and interview DeLana Harvick at Kansas Speedway last weekend. DeLana is married to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick, who pilots the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing (RCR). Kevin is currently 2nd in The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series Championship points standings, just ONE point behind the leader, Carl Edwards. Needless to say, this has been a big year for the Harvicks, one that included moving the racing side of Kevin Harvick Inc. over to RCR.
Interviewing Delana was fun and truly refreshing. She’s down-to-earth, honest and genuine. I appreciate honesty above all else and I think after reading this interview you’ll have a better understanding of who she and Kevin are individually and as a couple.
I’m a HUGE fan of stories of how people met their spouses and the Harvicks have a great one. I also think that everyone’s story matters and we can all learn something about ourselves from others and one thing I took from my time with DeLana was to stay open. You just never know what (or who!) life has in store for you.
Me: How did you meet Kevin? I know you’ve told the story before.
DeLana: I actually had set one of my friends up with Kevin, kind of as a blind date. My friend that I grew up with was a crew chief at RCR and I was always his back-up date. He was like my big brother and he needed someone to go with him to the RCR Christmas party and I said, “Sure, I’ll go, but I have a friend in town from L.A. Is there anyone you could set her up with?”
He goes, “Yeah, let me check. There’s this new kid coming in. His name is Kevin. He’s going to drive for us.” And I said, “Okay. As long as he’s not a jerk, I’ll let her go with him.” We happened to walk in a little bit late that night, and Kevin shot a smart comment back and I fired back at him, and we’ve never been apart from that date.
Me: Very cool. What was your first impression of his personality? What was your first impression of him, in general?
DeLana: I thought he was a jerk. (laughter) The one thing I asked him not to do was set my friend up with a jerk, and you did, but I quickly learned that Kevin has a very quick, sarcastic wit, which I do to, and I think that can be a good and a bad thing. It can be misconstrued a little bit sometimes but we very much are, I think, each other’s balancing act.
Me: What made you want to marry him?
DeLana: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I never wanted to get married. I didn’t think I wanted to be married. I was really happy in my career and traveling and working in NASCAR. I don’t know. A month after we met he looked at me and he said, “I’m going to marry you. We’re going to get married.” I said, “Whoa, whoa. Let’s take a step back. This is going way too fast,” and a year later we got married.
I don’t know. When they say you know, you know, and it wasn’t an immediate. I don’t know that I necessarily believe in that. But I realized over the course of the year that we dated that this was the guy for me.
Me: How did he propose, or was it just like, “We’re going to get married. It’s going to happen.”
DeLana: Actually, we had a discussion about it. We had just bought our first motor home — we had just bought our first house — and there was no money for a ring. So we sat down and had a discussion, a very diplomatic discussion. I said, “Listen, I don’t need a ring. Don’t go out and buy me a chintzy ring. Let’s not do that, because I want to live with this forever.”
And he agreed with me. So we were going to get married without a ring; I didn’t need that. He ended up surprising me in December. We were going to get married, I think we told everybody at Thanksgiving of 2000, and he surprised me in December with a ring, which I wasn’t expecting at all.
Me: That’s very cool. That’s very nice. What would you say is Kevin’s worst habit?
DeLana: His worst habit? He’s messy. I spend literally the first little bit of when I get up and before I go to bed cleaning up after him. He’ll leave clothes, he’ll leave shoes, he’ll leave hats, whatever, and I’m a neat freak. Everything has to be in order and in place or I literally can’t sleep, I can’t function. So I would say he’s messy.
Me: And on the flip side of that, what would say is his best characteristic, his best trait, the thing that you’re like, “Oh, I remember why I married you”?
DeLana: I think his wit and his sense of humor. A lot of people don’t get it, but I do and I appreciate that.
Me: Now that KHI is going into, or at least the racing side is going into RCR, what are your goals now for you guys as a couple? I know Kevin mentioned at the press conference he was wanting to get to do those things that you guys get to do. What are those things and where do you think your focus will be now?
DeLana: I don’t know. That’s the good thing about Kevin and I, is we’re really good at sort of seizing the opportunities as they come, and I don’t know what that means. I think this is really the first time in our life that we really haven’t had a set goal or something in mind. I think we just really want to be. Sometimes there’s a lot that’s made about stuff and to smell the roses along the way, and for ten years we literally lived this 24/7, 365 days a year, and that’s not a joke.
We say we’re not going to go home and talk about racing but it doesn’t happen, and literally, as a couple, for 11 years, that’s all we’ve done. I’m 38 and I thought, “Wow, in ten more years, which has gone by just quickly, I’ll be almost 50.” I’m very proud of everything we’ve accomplished because we did it together. This was never something that Kevin wanted to do alone. We both wanted to do this, but it’s like when we got married we knew this was what we were going to do.
We built it from the ground up and we built it to what I believe are very high standards, both on and off the track, and I’m just proud of what we’ve done. I’m proud of everybody who’s believed in us and wanted to be a part of it. And I’m proud of the people that are continuing to stick with us, and while KHI, the racing portion, won’t technically be around, they’re still going to continue to work with Kevin and I. That’s important, really important, the relationships that we’ve built over the last ten years.
Me: And I know that you have the foundation and you did the thing that I love, the scholarship for student athletes at CSU Bakersfield. So are you going to continue to do things like that or more programs?
DeLana: Yeah. It’s relatively new for us because a lot of people push us. “Why don’t you have a foundation?” Kevin and I aren’t the kind of people that want to attach our names to something and walk away, so we started that last year, and honestly, that’s really what I’m looking forward to is to be able to really sort of just dive into everything, all the programs that we’ve created, and then continue to generate new programs and new initiatives. While we’ve been involved, I don’t feel like we’ve been as involved as we wanted to be, so I think that’s one of the things that both Kevin and I are looking forward to.
Me: What has been, up until now, the most memorable racing moment from Kevin’s career?
DeLana: From Kevin’s career? I would say the Daytona 500. That, to me, is something. I literally get chills and sort of tear up every time I watch it again. I knew how important that was, obviously, growing up in racing. That’s a huge accomplishment. But for Kevin, I knew that was something he’d always dreamed about, and to actually watch that happen for him, in the manner in which it happened, was pretty special.
There are a lot of big moments along the way – certainly his championships – and hopefully maybe this year a Cup championship. That’s really the last piece of the puzzle for Kevin that would make it complete for him. He’s won the 500 and the Coke 600 and the Indy. I mean, he’s won everything but to win the championship, I think would be the most special.
Me: I follow you on Twitter and I know that you listen to Howard Stern, and I am a Howard Stern fan as well. I tell people that, and as a woman I think people think, “Why do you listen to Howard Stern?” Why do you listen and what do you like about him?
DeLana: For me, I think definitely Howard’s changed a lot in the last ten years. I think certainly he has his moments, but I honestly appreciate his insight and the way that they work through and discuss current events and issues. I appreciate his perspective, and his perspective has definitely changed the older that he’s gotten. I don’t know. I kind of relate to that because I look at myself as a 28-year-old versus a 38-year-old, and yeah, I have a lot of different opinions than I did ten years ago.
I like that he’s open, candid, and honest, and I sort of feel like I have those same traits. I think people, while they say they appreciate those qualities in a person, I don’t think that’s 100 percent true because sometimes when you hear what you don’t want to hear, you don’t necessarily appreciate those qualities as much. But I’ll always be honest, I think I’m very up-front, and sometimes I think I can be abrasive and harsh, and certainly that’s not how I want to come across, but I never want to misrepresent myself. I feel like if I don’t say what I think, that I’m doing myself an injustice.
Me: And that’s why I kind of figured why you would listen to Howard, because he’s so open and honest and he strives for that honesty in his interviews, so I figured, “Of course she’d listen, because she’s very honest herself, and open, and not afraid to address things.” Speaking of addressing things, there are always constantly rumors about everybody, having babies or marriage issues or whatever. How do you deal with that in your own head and just personally, and what’s your philosophy on the whole thing of dealing with that stuff that comes along?
DeLana: I do. Honestly, from the beginning, because of the way Kevin was thrust into the limelight, I was also kind of pushed into the public forum, where I had always been behind the scenes, I was doing PR and I wasn’t necessarily used to that sort of open criticism. I just married my best friend. I just want to be with Kevin. I really wasn’t signing up for all this. But as the years have gone by I realized that people are going to say what they want, and honestly, I’ve never been one to let that dictate how I live my life.
They’re going to say what they want about Kevin, and they have said a lot of things and some are true and some aren’t. But at the end of the day, if I go to bed knowing that I’m a good person and I did the right thing, I don’t care. I really, honestly don’t care what they say. I’m not going to let that dictate how Kevin and I live our lives.
Me: Has there ever been an incident that Kevin had on-track, or said something in a press conference or something where you’re like, “Why did you say that?”
DeLana: Oh yeah. I could probably list things on both hands, but I will be the first one to tell Kevin, “You really screwed up and I don’t think I would’ve handled it this way.” And he’ll be the first one to fire back and sort of, not try to convince me why he was right but I guess show me his side of the story. And then sometimes I’ll realize that he’ll take my advice and my opinion by the way I see him react to another press conference or another interview, and that to me means he respects my opinion, and that’s all I can ask for.
I don’t expect to change Kevin. I don’t want to make Kevin something he’s not. But as long as he’s willing to respect my input, that means everything to me. That doesn’t mean he’s going to do what I say. I don’t want a robot. That’s not what I married. But the fact that he respects my opinion is really important.
Me: Yeah, and that he hears you, what you’re saying. It seems like you guys have very good communication in terms of knowing where each other stands in terms of what you want out of your life together.
DeLana: I think so. I think we know how to push each other’s buttons. I think we know how to be each other’s biggest critic and biggest cheerleader, and I think that’s certainly evolved over the last ten years. In the first year we were married we didn’t have a typical marriage. Dale [Earnhardt Sr.] had died, he was put in the Cup Series, and all of that got accelerated because he was going to run seven races that year in the Cup Series and run for Rookie of the Year.
And as he was competing on both the Cup and Nationwide Series, our lives sort of took a back seat. There was no time to catch your breath and enjoy. We didn’t go on our honeymoon until two years later because we didn’t have time. So our first year I don’t even count, really. I mean, we look back on it and it’s a blur for both of us. We don’t remember, honestly. But it’s been ten good years, and for someone who never thought they’d get married, I’m really proud of that.
Me: Do you ever Google yourself?
DeLana: Yeah, I’ve Googled myself.
Me: Are you surprised at what you read? Are there sites that you go to constantly?
DeLana: Not really. Certainly there are legitimate media that I follow and I pay attention to, and honestly, we have over 60,000-some followers on Twitter. For me, I’m just Kevin’s wife. I’m nobody, really. It’s really interesting to see the feedback. I have been able to develop a great relationship with Kevin’s fans, and I don’t know if you want to call them my fans, whatever. I can take the criticism and I actually enjoy it. I think some people can be mean-spirited and spiteful and if that happens I’m just totally not going to listen to it. But yeah, I’m not perfect and I’m open to that.