Tuesday while appearing at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte for the Chase media day to kick off the Eliminator Round of eight for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kevin Harvick defended his actions during the final restart at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday.
The engine in the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet was failing in the closing laps of the CampingWorld.com 500, Harvick knew he had a problem with his engine and he knew his car likely wouldn’t be able to get up to speed on the restart. Harvick was told over team communications to block as many cars as he could on the restart in order to receive the maximum number of points possible. Trevor Bayne attempted to move around Harvick on the outside as the #4 Chevrolet slowed. Bayne cut back in front of Harvick to get back in line as the cars connected resulting in the spin.
“Look, I didn’t cause the first wreck and I definitely don’t believe that I caused the second wreck, either,” said Harvick. “It’s just one of those situations where I did the best I could on the restarts to get going and I got out of the way. I never even really saw the 6 (Bayne) car until he was by me and doing what he was doing. It’s just one of those situations where you can’t stop. You have to continue to try to let it play out. It really did play out. Those guys wrecked the first time. Obviously, the situation with the restart was what it was.”
Upon review of both restarts on the first restart Harvick moved up out of the racing groove for the restart, but as Joey Logano spun his tires the drivers stacked up, negating the restart. On the final green-white-checkered finish, Harvick held his place in line on the outside lane. But Harvick also said the stakes are much higher in the Chase than in the regular season, pushing both the teams and drivers to the brink of desperation.
“I’ve thought about this a lot, as you listen to what other people say,” said Harvick. “Obviously, we were in a unique position with the caution still out and the way that things all shook out. They can look at 100 different ways, but I can’t quit, you know? You can’t just roll over and be done with it and say, ‘Well, we tried our best.’ Because you didn’t, I quit once in my life and I’ll never quit again.”
The quitting life lesson that Harvick was referring to was one he learned in high school, when he shelved a successful high school wrestling career in order to he pursue a motorsports career.
“I think if you’re at race 13 and you’re in a situation like that, you probably pull in the pits,” said Harvick. “If you’re in a cutoff race at Talladega, you have to play the restart out. I mean, you have to try. If it falls on its face or you crash or whatever the case may be, then you still have that little glimmer of hope, and that’s your season. That’s it.”
NASCAR quickly threw the yellow flag, and for Harvick that meant his 15th place finish was enough to advance him to the Eliminator Round of the Chase with seven other drivers. The Eliminator Round will begin Sunday at Martinsville for the eight drivers left in the championship hunt.
Given the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship tends to lead to a no holds barred way of thinking. Last season Ryan Newman pulled the last-lap move that sent Kyle Larson into the wall and Newman claiming one of the four positions in the championship finale at Homestead-Miami.
Newman claimed he owed Larson based on a truck race held at Eldora Speedway two years ago. The move knocked Jeff Gordon out of the Chase in running for a fifth title by one point.
“From their perspective, I can understand their frustration of not being in the Chase or whatever the circumstances might be,” said Harvick, who understood why the drivers were angry. “So I’m not going to throw stones, because I don’t believe that’s probably the right thing to do.”
With points at a premium, and a championship on the line, and the points reset as each new round begins a driver needs to do what needs to be done to ensure his chance into the final four drivers to race for the Chase in the finale at Homestead-Miami. At Homestead-Miami the points for the remaining four drivers will be reset with the top finishing driver winning the championship.