Kevin Harvick joins Hendrick Motorsports for a day

When Rick Hendrick called, the 2014 champion couldn't say no

It’s a surreal visual if nothing else, Kevin Harvick wearing a HendrickCars.com fire suit, climbing in and out of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 on Friday for NASCAR All-Star Race practice as Kyle Larson continues his Indianapolis 500 effort.

In a perfect world, Hendrick Motorsports should not require a substitute driver on Sunday night but even if they do it would be Justin Allgaier since Harvick isn’t eligible per NASCAR regulations as a non-active competitor.

Nevertheless, Harvick was asked to shake the car down in practice on Friday since he has both relevant recent experience in the current generation car but also because it makes for a cool story.

“We’ve approached it like it’s a normal race weekend,” Harvick said before practice on Friday at North Wilkesboro Speedway. “They want to do everything they can to get Kyle prepared to come from the back and win the All-Star Race,

“So really, it’s been very methodical with the way they have gone about everything. I’ve sat in all the team meetings, been in the simulator and done all those things as we’ve approached the weekend, like it was a normal weekend.

“So hopefully I do my part.”

Harvick said the processes between Hendrick Motorsports and the place he raced for the past decade in Stewart-Haas Racing are not that dissimilar with one key caveat.

“I mean, I heard from the owner twice in two weeks,” Harvick said with a laugh, referencing the general absence of Tony Stewart and Gene Haas for much of the season over at Kannapolis, North Carolina.

“I mean, there’s are a million different ways you can do things but the thing that sticks out for me about Hendrick Motorsports in general is that it’s truly run like a business that includes a structure of how things flow,” Harvick said. “The depth of the business side and competition side is deep.

“I think that is pretty eye opening and good to see.”

Did Harvick ever come close to joining Hendrick Motorsports for real over the past two decades?

“I mean, anytime that these conversations have come up in the past, I had been in the middle of a situation where I was happy and good with it,” Harvick said. “But with Rick being involved in Stewart-Haas Racing when I started, there was obviously a conversation that had to happen there, to go to SHR and us having that relationship with their engine shop and the sharing of information.

“I did have to sit there and put my Xfinity deal together in Rick’s office and let him work that out. So this wasn’t the first time we’ve had an interaction but it is the first time that it’s worked out to get into one of his cars and drive it on the Cup side. It’s kind of fun.”

With that said, he’s not particularly emotionally moved by driving the No. 5 on Friday.

“It’s different because I’ve been in the TV booth this season, watching the 5 car do what they’ve done this season and my job is just going to be getting it in and out of the pit box and trying to understand the difference in tires.”

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