About 280,000 people know her as @DeLanaHarvick. A 3-year-old knows her as “Momma,” and a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion knows her as his wife. She can be remembered as “the woman on top of the pit box wearing the fire suit” or currently as the co-owner of a marketing agency representing high-profile professionals such as newly crowned UFC champion Miesha Tate.
However you define DeLana Harvick, no one knows her as a woman afraid to speak her mind.
NASCAR championship-winning crew chief Rodney Childers is familiar with the work and talent necessary to achieve success at a high level. The No. 4 pit boss understands the dynamics of the Harvicks and can speak to DeLana’s prowess in all facets of her life, which now includes her involvement in KHI Management and being a mother.
“DeLana is good at so many things,” Childers said. “She could run any business if she wanted to, she could run any race team if she wanted to. I think that anyone that’s been around her for a period of time realizes that.”
A native of Kernsville, North Carolina, Harvick was born into a racing family. From 3 weeks old, she was at the track supporting her self-funded racing dad, John Paul Linville. Linville raced without the large, corporate sponsors you see on cars today. As Harvick grew up, she became responsible for managing the day-to-day activities and learning at the grassroots level what it takes to run an organization.
Growing up, Harvick wanted to pilot a race car. She didn’t get the chance to get behind the wheel until she was in her 20s, and by then, she felt the opportunity to be a successful driver had passed. She went to college with the intention of becoming a high school teacher, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a degree in English.
But that wasn’t where she really wanted to be. With her knowledge of the business facets of racing and an urge to jump-start her career, Harvick got a public relations internship and dove head first into the world of NASCAR.
“I had a lot of the background of what I felt like was a good avenue to start the team side of it, but I didn’t understand the PR and the marketing and all that because we didn’t have that,” Harvick told NASCAR.com. “We were just racing out of what my dad could afford.
“When I realized there was this whole other world, and as NASCAR continued to grow and evolve, I became very interested in the PR and marketing side of it.”
Harvick’s first job was with PPR Plus, which, at the time, was managing Jeff Gordon‘s publicity.
“I came in doing hospitality, slinging bratwurst and waking up at four in the morning, giving pit tours and things like that,” Harvick said. “And then I slowly started to be allowed to write for them and I handled a lot of the Make-A-Wish (Foundation) side of things at that point. So I really got a whole education on the business side of NASCAR that I didn’t know.”
Fast cars, fast change of pace
The racing world Harvick grew up in was a much different environment for women than it is today.
“Growing up in the sport, there weren’t that many women that were allowed into the garage, so you didn’t really see a lot of the women,” Harvick said. “I remember spending a lot of time in the infield in the car because we weren’t allowed to come in. But that got better as I got older.
“Today, it’s not just women that are involved in the PR and marketing side. There’s engineers, tire specialists, they’re working on teams, they’re doing so many things. That makes me really proud — just because you feel like this is a man’s sport or people say that doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t come and try to fulfill their dreams.”
Prevailing over social norms, Harvick made her way up through the professional NASCAR world, met husband Kevin Harvick and the two were married Feb. 28, 2001 in Las Vegas.
As they built a marriage, the Harvicks also built a business. DeLana Harvick became co-owner and manager of Kevin Harvick Incorporated, a race team owning cars and trucks in the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series, along with the ARCA Racing Series.
The KHI teams saw success, eventually winning championships with truck driver Ron Hornaday Jr. in 2007 and 2009. But as the next decade approached, the Harvicks were ready to start a family, and with that meant saying goodbye to one baby and hello to another.
And Keelan makes three
In 2011, it was announced that KHI would merge with Richard Childress Racing the following season. On July 8, 2012, Keelan Harvick was born, forever changing the way both DeLana and Kevin lived their lives.
“It’s made me really prioritize my life,” Harvick said. “I want to be the best parent that I can be and I think that just goes back to when we decided to own race teams, I wanted to be the most successful, the most competitive that we could possibly be. And when we made the shift to start our family, one of the reasons we shut down the race team — the race team was my baby — and I didn’t feel like I could give less of myself to the race teams because it would just be too hard.”
Harvick had control of things at KHI, but motherhood has been different. She soon learned that her tiny human had the reins, and her job as a mother was to guide him in the right direction.
“I’m happy that my day is not the same everyday,” Harvick said. “I never know what’s going to happen. … We kind of make up our travel routine on the fly. We don’t know if we’re going next week. Whatever happens, happens. And I know that will get a little more rigid as Keelan gets into school, but right now we’re just trying to expose him to as much as we can. Travel with him, and show him the world, and that, to me, is the most important.”
Getting back to business
Even after closing the KHI race teams, the Harvicks still had the same core group of people who were instrumental in securing and maintaining sponsorships within KHI. This led to a conversation with UFC fighter Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
“While we never really thought about life after the race team, in that discussion with ‘Cowboy’ we realized that there were opportunities outside of racing where people didn’t really have the best representation,” Harvick said.
UFC fighter Miesha Tate is a client of KHI Management.
In 2013, KHI Management was established as a celebrity marketing agency that now represents a smorgasbord of talent that includes everything from country music artists, to UFC fighters, to PGA golfers to a 10-year-old motorcross phenom and even Kevin Harvick himself.
“It’s been great to learn different business models because I feel like we had a really good understanding of NASCAR and what we needed to do to make our teams be successful,” DeLana said. “I think sometimes you just get in a funk and I feel like we could have done so many things in NASCAR with our eyes closed. That’s not to say it’s easy. You just know.”
Taking on the challenge of starting up a business she knew little about didn’t scare Harvick. The once small-town girl turned big-time NASCAR PR professional was eager to learn.
As DeLana Harvick plays a large role at KHI Management, it allows Kevin time to focus on racing. Which, if you look at his recent career statistics, has helped tremendously. The 40-year-old Bakersfield, California, native won his first Sprint Cup Series championship in 2014 and led nearly a quarter of all the laps in the 2015 season.
“I think between the two of us, it’s been a great partnership to really balance things at home,” Kevin Harvick says of his wife’s involvement in KHI. “I can keep myself busier, and it keeps me from being too busy, so it’s been a great balance for the both of us.”
“I think for Kevin it’s a great peace of mind of knowing that he’s got somebody on his side that’s day-to-day with him,” Stewart said. “She’s very active in that organization and she understands what it takes to be successful at this level. It’s more than just being a supportive spouse. She truly gets every aspect of this sport and understands why everything happens the way it does.”
Twitter has been an important outlet for Harvick, and she has gained about 280,000 followers since creating her account in 2009.
“My whole thing with social media is just to keep it real,” Harvick said. “I don’t have time to make up a persona or be fake. What you see is what you get. Sometimes it’s not pretty. But I’m not afraid to say what I think, and I never have been — whether it’s been in the boardroom or at the race track or even to Kevin. I don’t hold back and I don’t hold back on social media, and I think that people probably appreciate that.”
In 140-character messages, Harvick has opened up her life to thousands of followers and given them raw content from the start. From pre-race question-and-answer sessions and in-race updates, to videos of Keelan wheeling his dune buggy in circles around their driveway, Harvick’s Twitter content gives her audience a true, inside look at her family.
“People who have been long-time followers of mine say, ‘We didn’t like Kevin at all, and now we’ve grown to love your husband and your family.’ And it’s funny because I’m not here to make you like Kevin,” Harvick said. “You can like who you want. If I can convert someone to be a Kevin fan, great. If not, no worries, it’s no big deal.”
Through the social media gateway, Harvick’s genuine character and personality has been exposed to the world. She’s OK if not everyone agrees with it.
“I’m very independent, I’m a free thinker and I have my own opinions and I’m not afraid to share those,” Harvick said. “Sometimes women with strong opinions aren’t received very well, and that’s OK. Everybody doesn’t have to be my friend. But as I ran a race team, I was going to do what was 100 percent best for my sponsors, for my team, for my employees, and sometimes that’s not always the most popular thing.”
Harvick is happy where she is today, wearing many hats as a mother, wife, businesswoman and even a social media maven, but she didn’t get there without first experiencing and overcoming views of how she should live her life based on her gender.
“I think I was so terrified; everyone tells you when you’re a woman that you need to grow up and have a family and that was by far the last thing I wanted to do,” Harvick said. “I was not going to get married, I was not going to have a family because I was really happy with my career and I wanted to make a name for myself in the industry.”