The wait was over July 8th for Kevin and DeLana Harvick when Keelan Paul Harvick was born after only two hours of hospital labor. The newborn, known in the womb as "Baby Otis" on Twitter and in public, weighed in at 6.8 lbs and a rather lengthy 19.5 inches. To celebrate, the rear of Harvick's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series No. 29 RHEEM Chevrolet from Richard Childress Racing reads, "It's a boy" this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
"Waiting on Keelan was the longest nine months of my entire life," Kevin Harvick said. "But time literally stood still when I held our baby for the first time. I've accomplished a lot in my life that I'm proud of, but those moments don't hold a candle to becoming a father and seeing that little face looking up at you. DeLana and I are just amazed by how special and rewarding this is."
Keelan was kind enough to hold off until after the 54th annual Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway before making his entrance. Harvick had enlisted Kenny Wallace as a back-up driver in case DeLana went into labor on race day. (Wallace was also on duty for Penske Racing in the event AJ Allmendinger's replacement Sam Hornish Jr didn't make it to Daytona in time for the green flags). Harvick finished 23rd in the July 7 contest.
"It's been a crazy week, to tell you the truth," Harvick admitted. "It all started at Daytona; yeah, we went in and she did a great job and had a baby within about two hours. Dad (referring to himself in the third person) waited a little too long to get her to the hospital. I was obviously not her favorite person as they told they wouldn't give her an epidural."
As a proper racer, Harvick was the one to take DeLana to the hospital to give birth, but he didn't drive her terribly quickly. "It wasn't very fast because she was obviously in a lot of pain. That was partly my fault because I made her wait too long, so we didn't make any real fast corners. We would go straight and fast. I didn't get yelled at on the drive over - and that was my goal.
"She did good," he said of wife DeLana. "She had it all natural, no drugs or nothing. We had a healthy baby boy and that was the most important part. Everybody is good and at home, doing normal things," Harvick explained. "The sleeping pattern is different for sure, but we're fortunate to have a lot of help with her mom being right there. We've been able to incorporate her into everything that is going on. It's definitely been a change but nothing as bad as everybody made it sound like. It's been great."
Now it's time for "Happy" Harvick to return to Job No. 1, which is winning races for RCR and working to get into the Chase for the Sprint Cup that starts after the Richmond round. "The anxiety of just everything that was going to happen with having a baby and knowing that everything is settled at home and everybody is health is the part I was worried about the most. Definitely the most relaxed that I've been able to be in weeks coming to the race track.
"I think everybody is excited we don't have anything to worry about except for the race cars," he said. Obviously this is a place that Shane (crew chief Wilson and his guys have had a lot of success at. We've been fortunate to run well here as well so we are just looking forward to getting on the race track and it should be a good weekend."
Harvick is winless so far in the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season but his approach hasn't changed since the start of the year: "You're going to go out and try to get the best finish that you can. Obviously you don't want to take any huge risks at this point, being that there are seven or eight weeks to go (until the Chase begins). We've been in position to win a few races; we made a lot of mistakes and we haven't caught the breaks that we need to. Last year we caught a lot of breaks and that stuff just goes in cycles."
Last weekend in Daytona, Harvick went into the last lap negotiating for the victory. "We went into turn three thinking we are going to come out of turn four with a chance to probably win the race - to wadded up in a mess there," he mused. "You just ride it out and you try to keep putting yourself in position and the tide turns at some point."
While Keelan Paul Harvick has his Twitter handle and websites - for protection more than anything else - and no, he hasn't tweeted yet, the Harvick family is hoping he'll be more into golf clubs than karting but Kevin and DeLana are ready for whatever he wants.
"It's hard to tell who he looks like and things like that right now," the proud father said. "He came out and didn't cry a lot, so maybe he is as tough as his mom. That will be a good thing. He's just starting to get that little smile where he opens his eyes and looks at you. It's pretty neat."