FONTANA, Calif. — The 2011 Winner of the Auto Club 400 was enshrined into the Fontana, Calif. race track’s Walk of Fame on Saturday morning. Kevin Harvick signed his name, car number (29) and pushed both of his feet into the cement. In addition, he was presented a plaque by Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker, which was also cemented in the ground. A large crowd of about 250 fans witnessed the ceremony. The Walk of Fame is located at Gate 12 on the east end of the DiscoverIE FanZone.
“The biggest thing for me was coming back from the year before,” the Richard Childress Racing driver said. “We should have done the same thing. I wound up scraping the thing against the wall and screwing that up. To come back and finish the deal the next year was neat for the team.”
Auto Club Speedway is considered Harvick’s home superspeedway since he grew up in Bakersfield, Calif. The 36-year-old drives the No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“It’s still a lot of fun to be able to do what you get to do for your job,” he added. “To be able to do it so close to home is something that makes it even cooler. Really, the qualifying is what has helped us the most. The car was good in the first practice.”
Harvick’s right foot went a little deeper into the cement than his left foot, according to the Auto Club Speedway. His nickname is “The Closer” because he is known for passing the lead car just before crossing the start-finish line, NASCAR.com says.
The NASCAR driver and his wife are expecting their first child. “I didn’t realize what came with all that,” he explained. “Babies aren’t cheap. I’m learning fast.”
Each year, the winner of the previous Auto Club 400 is added to the speedway’s Walk of Fame. It has became a fan-favorite event on Saturday morning, according to the Auto Club Speedway.
“I got my race ticket autographed,” said Marissa Gonzales, a race fan from San Diego. “He’s my favorite driver. I’ve met Kevin before too. I’ve met like Joey Logano and a bunch of others.
Harvick started this year’s Auto Club 400 from the seventh position and finished in fourth. He may have been able to win the race for the second year in a row, but heavy rain caused the red flag to be dropped on lap 129 and the rest was history, according to NASCAR.
“I’d have to agree, he’s top three for me,” said Sonia Gonzales, also from San Diego. “We’ve met a handful of drivers at the FanFest. They had like all of the drivers here. I’ve met Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, a bunch of different guys.”
On Sunday, the driver of the No. 29 Jimmy Johnson’s Chevrolet participated in a fan question-and-answer session. Fans who purchased the Budweiser Block Party Package were able to attend, according to AutoClubSpeedway.com.
“I’ve met Kevin before and everything,” said Daniel Wilson, a race fan from Harvick’s hometown. “Being at somewhat of his home track, I’m glad he’s won a race so far. He’s my very favorite, favorite driver. We’ve got to support our hometown boys.”
Other drivers already in the Walk of Fame include Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield, Rusty Wallace, Kurt Busch, Elliott Sadler, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards, according to AutoClubSpeedway.com.
“I’ve actually only been to one NASCAR race and that would be this one today,” said Daniel Berry, a young race fan from Bakersfield, Calif. “I’m actually happy that I met him. Stewart would be my first favorite and Harvick would be my second.”