Sunday night, Kevin Harvick secured an improbable victory in the Southern 500 playoff opener after Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. collided and went into the wall. The regular-season champion headed to grab the checkered flag to celebrate his win but drove away empty-handed. The reason is that he let a young fan keep the flag and created a lasting memory.
The boy's father, Aaron Parks, posted a video of the interaction on Twitter. Harvick drove up to the wall as the fan prepared to hand off the flag. The pairing was seemingly perfect considering that the fan had on a No. 4 Harvick jersey. However, the champion did not take the flag. He said "you keep it" before driving away. The stunned boy could only wave and respond with "thank you."
"Tonight was truly amazing for a truly amazing kid my son! He is a great kid! To have Kevin Harvick do let him keep the flag was truly amazing! Harvick fans for life! One last thank you to [Kevin Harvick], [NASCAR on NBC], [NASCAR on Reddit] We will never forget tonight!" Parks added in a later tweet.
Heading into the playoffs, there were questions about whether momentum would play a role in Sunday's victory. Harvick was the best driver during the regular season and secured seven total victories. This included the first trip to Darlington following a 10-week COVID-19 postponement. Some drivers said that they needed to "flip the switch" and transition into playoff mode, but Harvick had a different opinion.
"You're not gonna start that now," Harvick told PopCulture.com and other media outlets. "We've tried to about 4-5 years ago. We sat down as a team and tried to figure out how we could [win] a playoff race every week. There's no switching gears from that mindset into a different mindset. ... When we get to the playoffs, it's not 'how do we switch gears to playoff mode?' It's 'keep doing what you've been doing' at that level in order to continue that going forward."
Harvick followed this strategy on Sunday night and secured the first victory of the playoffs. The win seemed to be out of reach due to Elliott and Truex having a major lead at the end of the race, but the late collision changed the storyline. Harvick wasted no time and drove to the front of the pack. Once he secured the win, he created a lasting memory for a young fan.