Having exposure can lead to opportunities, but having potential … that’s something you can’t teach.
Not long after winning the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race (and $1 million), Kevin Harvick shared why he thinks the efforts being placed into short-track racing are paying off for cultivating talent.
Especially for two members of the 2018 NASCAR Next class: Will Rodgers and Hailie Deegan — two drivers Harvick expects to make it big if given the right opportunities to succeed.
“I don’t think anybody would have known Will Rodgers’ name if we hadn’t run the K&N (Pro Series West) race last year,” Harvick said. “I’m proud to be able to take him and bring him on the radio show, talk about him. That’s really the reason that we run those races. I think when we went to Bakersfield this year, running around, Hailie, she has a lot of potential. … I think both of those kids have a ton of potential.”
Rodgers and Deegan have both made appearances on Harvick’s Sirius XM show ‘Happy Hours’ and periodically lean on the 2014 Monster Energy Series champion for advice. In March, the 16-year-old Deegan led Harvick for 10 laps during a K&N race at Kern County Raceway — a moment both drivers have yet to forget.
“She’s the best female ‑‑ she has the most potential of a female racer because she gets it,” Harvick explained. “She’s very into what she’s doing. It’s not about everything else. It’s really about the race car and how do I drive it faster. She’s just got her stuff together.”
Rodgers, who is 23 years old, also caught the eye of Harvick last season during a K&N race at Sonoma Raceway. Although the veteran held off the fellow California native for the victory, Rodgers’ second-place run was nothing to look past — and Harvick thinks the next move for Rodgers could be his biggest one yet.
“He just needs an opportunity to come out and show what he’s got,” Harvick said. “When the road-course stuff shows up, Will is probably capable of being in an Xfinity race or a Cup race in the right equipment on a road course. He’d be a top-10 competitor in the right stuff, in the right situation on any road course in any series.”