CONCORD, N.C. -- Finally, Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress Racing have made it official.
Amid literally months of speculation about Harvick's future as a driver in the Sprint Cup Series, RCR announced at a news conference Saturday that Harvick has indeed signed a multi-year extension to remain in the seat of the No. 29 Chevrolet he currently wheels for RCR.
Team owner Richard Childress has been saying for weeks that it was only a matter of time until all the details were worked out on the deal.
"We are very excited to have Kevin back," Childress said. "He has written a lot of history for RCR."
Childress recalled how Harvick handled the difficult task of coming on board after the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt in an accident on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. In his third career Cup start at Atlanta that season, Harvick edged Jeff Gordon by .006 seconds for his first victory.
Harvick since has won 11 more times on the Cup circuit, the most recent coming earlier this season at Talladega. He is the current Cup Series points leader and also won the Daytona 500 and the Sprint All-Star Race in 2007.
"He stepped in the car when we lost Dale in 2001 and I don't know of any driver that could have stepped in there under the pressure and handled it the way he did," Childress said. "We'll always be grateful. To have him come back and re-sign again, we're very excited about it."
Truthfully, Harvick appeared to have run out of other viable options. With Kasey Kahne having already announced that he will begin driving for Hendrick Motorsports beginning in 2012 and seemingly no other spots open in 2011 at any of the other larger race organizations, Harvick's best option all along seemed to be re-signing with RCR.
After being pestered repeatedly about his future Cup plans over the last several weeks, Harvick said he was glad to be able to finally announce them Saturday.
"I think for us it's great to put everything, all the questions, to bed," Harvick said. "I know I have been pretty quiet about the way we have gone about everything. ... We've been through a lot of ups and downs, I feel like, as an organization and a team. But we're positioned as well as we ever have been to race for a championship this year."
Now the question turns to sponsorship for Harvick's No. 29 car, with his current primary sponsor, Shell/Pennzoil, already having announced that it will switch to the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge to be driven by Kurt Busch beginning next season.
One source insisted that the Harvick extension "definitely" had been in place for while, but that RCR delayed making the news public because the company had hoped to reveal a new primary sponsor for the No. 29 at the same time it announced the extension.
The same source said that it is possible that General Mills, the current primary sponsor for the No. 33 RCR car driven by Clint Bowyer, would eventually move to the 29 -- with the hope being that RCR can lure Budweiser to become primary sponsor for the 33. No such deal is yet in place, the source stressed. But Harvick and Childress eventually tired of fending off questions about Harvick's future, so they decided to proceed with Saturday's announcement of the driver's extension.
Budweiser currently is the primary sponsor for the No. 9 Ford driven by Kahne. But with Kahne's status uncertain as yet for 2011 and with him headed to Hendrick beginning in 2012, it is unclear where Budweiser will end up or if it even will remain in the sport as primary sponsor on a car. It also could be that RCR puts together a package that includes several different companies covering sponsorship for next season and beyond, a growing trend in NASCAR.
"I know there will be questions about sponsors, and we have three or four companies that we are dealing with now. I hope in the very near future we will have that to announce," Childress said. "But the key thing is to have Kevin back."
Harvick added that he is confident sponsorship will fall in place, and rather quickly.
"I don't think either of us would have been as willing to do everything that we're doing today without having the confidence in that side of it," Harvick said. "I think we both feel like there are things that will move along pretty fast on that side of it."