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Kevin Harvick announced Thursday that he will switch from the No. 4 to the No. 29 for the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in May, running a throwback number and paint scheme to his rookie season of 2001. Harvick, who was the 2001 Cup Rookie of the Year, will run his original number one final time during his final season in the Cup Series.

When NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt was killed in a crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, his Richard Childress Racing team had the somber duty of having to carry on without their driver, and Harvick -- then a 25-year old upstart on RCR's Busch Series team -- was tabbed as their driver. The team would discontinue using the No. 3 for the next 13 years switching that entry to No. 29, which was the next available number in Cup.

Harvick would immediately begin building a legacy with the No. 29, starting when he beat Jeff Gordon in a photo finish to score an emotional first Cup win in just his third start at Atlanta. He would finish the season with two wins, six top fives, and 16 top 10s on his way to a ninth-place finish in points and Rookie of the Year honors.

Over the next 13 seasons, Harvick would earn 23 of his 60 career victories in the No. 29 car, including the 2003 Brickyard 400, the 2007 Daytona 500, and two Coca-Cola 600 victories in 2011 and 2013. He would switch to No. 4 upon his move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, but by then the No. 29 had become integral to what would eventually become a Hall of Fame career for Harvick.

"When I sat in the 29 for the first time, it really wasn't by choice, but I definitely wouldn't have done it any differently," Harvick said in a Stewart-Haas Racing press release. "Dale's passing changed our sport forever, and it changed my life forever and the direction it took.

"Looking back on it now, I realize the importance of getting in the Cup car, and then I wound up winning my first race at Atlanta in the 29 car after Dale's death. The significance and the importance of keeping that car on the racetrack and winning that race early at Atlanta – knowing now what it meant to the sport, and just that moment in general of being able to carry on – was so important.

"I had a great 13 years at RCR and really learned a lot through the process because of being thrown into Dale's car, where my first press conference as a Cup Series driver was the biggest press conference I would ever have in my career, where my first moments were my biggest moments.

"With this being my last year as a Cup Series driver, we wanted to highlight a lot of these moments, and many were made at RCR in that 29 car. So, with the All-Star Race going to North Wilkesboro – a place with a ton of history – we thought it made sense in a year full of milestones and moments to highlight where it all started."

Now 47 years old, Harvick is the last full-time Cup Series driver to have competed during the 2001 season. He was part of a 2001 rookie class that included fellow future Hall of Famer Kurt Busch as well as Casey Atwood, Truck Series legend Ron Hornaday, Andy Houston, and the late Jason Leffler.