Tony Stewart didn’t need to sign Kevin Harvick to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing to know what kind of talent Harvick is behind the wheel of a NASCAR Cup Series car. Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, had long admired Harvick before the California native ever sat in the No. 4 and changed the course of the company history.

Harvick’s decision to retire at the end of the season has given his peers a chance to share how much he’s meant. Stewart among them. In a video shared on the Stewart-Haas Racing social media channels, Stewart spoke for nearly four minutes on Harvick’s career.

Stewart specifically highlighted two moments. The first was Harvick signing with Stewart-Haas for the 2014 season. The second was Harvick winning the championship that same year, making Stewart and Gene Haas look good from the beginning.

“The thing I remember about signing him is how happy I was,” Stewart tells RACER. “I think I might have been happier about it than he was. I had driven his Xfinity (Series) car, and I knew how good of an asset he was going to be for us. I knew what it was going to mean for our organization to have him with us. We were the perfect fit for each other.”

Racing is all about relationships and pairing up the right people. It was important to Stewart to sign a driver he believed in; one that would also be a good fit for the organization. Harvick, who had driven for Richard Childress for 13 seasons, was a no-brainer.

Harvick won five times in his first season with Stewart-Haas and crew chief Rodney Childers. Perhaps an overlooked gem in the garage, Childers was hand-picked by Harvick, and the two put together what has become one of the most formidable teams in the Cup Series garage.

Harvick’s championship was the second for SHR, and while he has come up short in the quest for a second in the years since, the wins haven’t stopped. Eight of Harvick’s last nine seasons with Stewart-Haas have resulted in multiple wins.

In nine seasons, Harvick has won 37 times with Stewart-Haas Racing. The wins push him to 60 in his career, good enough for eighth on NASCAR’s all-time wins list.

“He’s had a very huge hand in building Stewart-Haas Racing to what it is,” Stewart says. “He is directly responsible for it. What we did starting (out) was a phase, but what Kevin has brought to SHR helped grow SHR to what it is.”

Stewart never doubted what Harvick would do on the racetrack. But it’s been off the racetrack where he’s had the most impact.

“I think what people underestimate about Kevin is that he can lead so well,” Stewart says. “He knows what it takes to put a program together, he knows how to put the right people together because he did it with his Truck team and Xfinity team. I don’t think people realize how well-rounded he is and understanding the sport better than most, understanding the business better than most, and understanding how to put together championship-winning teams. When you put multiple people like that (together), it has the ability to be a trainwreck, but at the same time, it also has the ability to do great things when you put like-minded people together like that.”

The door will always be open for Harvick at Stewart-Haas, however Stewart’s gut tells him after this year, Harvick will go to the FOX Sports booth, focus on his family and race with his son, Keelan.

But Stewart and Harvick will always remain close.

“He’s a great friend,” Stewart says. “There is life advice he’s given at times and things that I didn’t necessarily think about. But he’s a father. There are things he thinks about sometimes from a different perspective, and he’s never been shy about communicating what he’s thinking to people, anyway.

“He is a person that is a friend and cares about you, and when he thinks about something he thinks is important, he’s going to tell you about it. There have been conversations that we’ve had that I value those way more than people know.”

Harvick has been the standard at Stewart-Haas Racing since his arrival. It was a pairing that turned out to be a win-win for both sides.

“Our organization when he leaves,” says Stewart, “is better than when he came in, for sure.”