27 year-old Kevin Harvick has been racing in one thing or another since grade school, everything from go-karts to trucks to cars. In 2000, he won the title of "Rookie of the Year" in NASCAR's Busch series (racing's minor league). 2001 saw him soar to even greater heights, simultaneously winning the Busch series championship and "Rookie of the Year" honors in NASCAR's Winston Cup series (the big league). Just last month, on August 3rd, Kevin won the historic Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis, setting himself up for a run at his first Winston Cup championship.
I was able to meet recently with Kevin in his North Carolina home for what I would soon discover would be his first-ever discussion about his coin-op collection.
Scott Voisin: Is this the first time you've talked about your collection in detail?
Kevin Harvick: Yeah. There's not too many times that we even let people in the house, but since it was in the gameroom and was about stuff that I like, then it's OK. (laughs)
SV: What got you started collecting video games?
KH: I've always been a video game nut. I always used to go to the local pizza place to play Super Sprint and pinball and anything else they brought in. I just grew up messing around with video games, and I thought it was pretty cool to have my own little arcade with a lot of the games I used to play.
SV: What was the first game that you bought?
KH: Galaga, probably because I was so bad at it. (laughs) I always used to get beat by all my friends playing it. I bought Galaga first, and then I bought Super Sprint, because I could beat everybody at Super Sprint. I just acquired the rest through the years.
SV: Where did you get the games from?
KH: All of these games came from a place called TNT Amusements in Pennsylvania. You can get anything from them. Restored, original, brand new... Most of the time, I'll just call them up and tell them what I want, and they'll tell me what they've got or if they can get it or what kind of condition it's in. Most of my games are in really good condition. I don't want them to be broke all the time, so if they're not in good condition, we'll just wait until we find a better one.
SV: Have you ever gone on eBay looking for something?
KH: No. That kind of scares me. (laughs)
SV: There's a lot of horror stories out there.
KH: Yeah. The guys at TNT have been really good to me and have always shot me straight.
SV: Is there a game that you want but haven't been able to find?
KH: Hard Drivin'. The front part is like a Ferrari, and you sit in it and shift. That one's really hard to find because they didn't make a lot of parts for it. I guess Atari, at one time, destroyed a lot of the parts to their machines, so there aren't a lot of parts to repair a Hard Drivin'. Other than that, we've pretty much found everything we wanted. All of the stuff I want now is pretty new. The Golden Tee game has advanced into a newer and better style game, and it's a lot of fun when you get a group of people together. That'll probably be the next addition we get, a newer Golden Tee.
SV: What does your wife, DeLana, think of your hobby? Does she get into it?
KH: Every once in awhile. When we have Christmas or something, it starts out in the kitchen where everybody's acting like they're having a lot of fun and talking to each other, but the party always winds up in this room with everybody playing video games and hootin' and hollerin' and having a good time. DeLana enjoys them, too. The Daytona USA machine has become the most popular because it's relatively easy to play and you can play against each other all at the same time. So she enjoys that... that and pinball.
SV: I was going to ask you about the South Park pin...
KH: I think it's a funny game! It's a little bit vulgar. (laughs) I'm not a huge South Park fan, but I think it's just a cool pinball machine. The things it says, the game itself and the layout is pretty fun, so that's why I got it.
SV: With your hectic schedule and all of the traveling you do, do you get much of a chance to enjoy the games?
KH: Not near as much as I'd like. Most of this stuff gets used a lot in the wintertime when we're home for Christmas and during the off-season. Sometimes we'll have small get-togethers during the season, and sometimes when I get bored or just get to a point where I just need to go sit and do something by myself, I'll come in here and chill out, but that's very rare.
SV: What would you say is your favorite game?
KH: If I had to pick, I would probably say Super Sprint, just because that's the game I grew up playing the most. I spent thousands of dollars dumping quarters into that machine. I like to sit down and play the pinball machine, and the Daytona USA game is fun when you have a group of people, but I drive every weekend, so it's fun, but... I really like them all, to tell you the truth, but Super Sprint is probably the most fun for me.
SV: Did video games play any role in you becoming a race car driver?
KH: A few years ago, I played a lot of the Papyrus NASCAR games, and we spent a lot of time helping them develop the games. You could actually learn a lot of things. Everything was so accurate that you could tell where pit road was and you could learn a lot of other small things about the race track that were in the video games. But when I was growing up, it was games like Super Sprint and Championship Sprint that I loved. Anything that had a steering wheel on it, I would play.
SV: You mentioned getting a newer Golden Tee earlier. Are there any other games you'd like to get?
KH: It depends on how much room I have. Like right now, this room is pretty maxed out in here. Our next house is going to be three or four times bigger, so I'll have to go out and get some more games. The first thing we'll probably put in there is a basketball machine. Everybody likes to shoot baskets, so we'll probably buy a regular-height, dual basketball machine. We'll probably have a bowling alley in it, and other than that, it just depends on what's out at the time. If I could find a Hard Drivin' game, I would put that in there. We'll probably get some more pinball machines because everybody likes to play pinball. We'll probably look for a Harley-Davidson or a pinball of that nature. It just depends on what games are out there and what will fit where, but I've already got all the ones I like.
SV: Speaking of which, I just realized that you've talked about all of your games except Track and Field and Pac-Man.
KH: I hate the Track and Field game! (laughs) I sucked at Track and Field when I was younger, and I still suck at it! I can't figure out how to do the pencil cheat. My fingers aren't coordinated enough to make the guy run fast, but if you get a pencil, you can time it right and just use one finger to hit both buttons, but I haven't figured out how to do it. And Pac-Man is Pac-Man, you know? It's a classic.
SV: Thanks, Kevin, for taking the time to share your collection with me and the readers.
KH: You're welcome!