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NASCAR STAR KEVIN HARVICK COMES TO BURLINGTON
July 21, 2011By Cavalier Dave Forrester of Hugh M Cummings High School
Harvick never ‘tires' during signing session
By Bob Sutton Times-News
David Wilson of Burlington showed up in line to meet NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick on Wednesday morning with a tire.
"People were looking and staring," said Wilson, who had Harvick sign the tire as part of the grand opening celebration of the new Ollie's Bargain Outlet on North Church Street in Burlington.
Wilson took the tire away in a shopping cart. He purchased the tire from a vendor at this year's Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, where the tire came off Harvick's car following a practice session. "He's my favorite driver," Wilson said.
Harvick, who's fourth in the Sprint Cup points standings, greeted fans and signed all sort of memorabilia, including miniature race cars, clothing, newspapers, magazines and trading cards.
The items also included a front splitter plopped in front of him by Kim Kepley of Welcome.
"Well, it's not tore up," Harvick said. Kepley and her husband, Ross Kepley , and two children arrived in line at about 7 a.m. in order to secure one of the 250 tickets that designated a chance to meet Harvick.
"He's one of the most personable drivers we've seen," Kim Kepley said. "If it's in a day's driving distance, we go. We knew to get here early."
The front splitter came from Harvick's car used in the 2010 summer race in New Hampshire. The Kepleys live not far from Harvick's headquarters.
"We go up there quite often and they have stuff for sale," Ross Kepley said. A few fans began camping out for spots in line at around 11 p.m. Tuesday for the 10 a.m. grand opening the next morning.
"I'm shaking like crazy," said 16-year-old Austin Smith of Davie County after he went through the line.
"I do, too, (have nerves)" said his mother, Amy Smith, who met Harvick for the sixth time. "It's well worth it."
Paramedics were called to the store about an hour into the autograph session when a fan passed out in line.
Some fans drove hours to meet Harvick, coming from such places as Darlington, S.C., Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Hendersonville.
He greeted fans of all ages and posed for countless photographs, producing a big smile each time. He engaged in conversations with the well wishers, even questioning the wisdom of one boy's Kyle Busch T-shirt. The same boy carried a Jeff Gordon No. 24 miniature car.
Many of the fans shared brief stories with Harvick.
"I wasn't sure about you until Bristol (from some past year)," one fan told him.
Others brought up competitive topics that, quite frankly, turned into this theme as relayed by one admirer: "Take out Kyle Busch for me."
Harvick, who's based in Kernersville, has the week off from Sprint Cup competition because of a break in the schedule. So his visit to Burlington might have been more stress-free than at other times.
"I get to sit in the air conditioning and sign my name," he said. "It could be a lot worse."
This was the first of four outings for Harvick this year associated with the Ollie's Bargain Outlet sponsorship, though he'll make more than 100 fan-related appearances during the course of the year.
City officials and politicians attended the ribboncutting for the store that specializes in closeouts, salvage, and surplus merchandise. Building owner David Morton, whose furniture store occupied the location until its relocation to Holly Hill Mall and Business Center, said it has been about a four-year process to bring an Ollie's Bargain Outlet to Burlington.
"We worked pretty hard to get this," city manager Harold Owen said.
Morton said the store will employ about 80 people.
The parking lot was full prior to the opening ceremony. Police estimated the initial crowd at about 1,000.