Hamlin and Harvick tangle at Martinsville – to Hamlin’s detriment

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Brake check? What brake check?

After Monday’s snow-delayed STP 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, fifth-place finisher Kevin Harvick pleaded innocent to an intentional brake check of fellow veteran Denny Hamlin late in the event won by Clint Bowyer.

“No, he hit me a couple times and I was just trying to make sure I had my car under control,” said Harvick, who slowed in front of Hamlin enough to damage the nose of Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota when the trailing driver couldn’t stop quickly enough.

When Hamlin bumped the No. 4 Ford, it was payback for similar treatment from Harvick, who was unabashed in his explanation of the initial contact with Hamlin’s car.

“He was on the bottom, and I knocked him out of the way,” Harvick said.

When Hamlin returned the favor and bumped Harvick, he got more than he bargained for.

“He just got to me and, I think, bumped me three or four times,” Hamlin said. “And then I was just bumping him back and he brake-checked me. I probably should have brake-checked him in the first place.

“They were just some light bumps here, and then slammed on the brakes. So classy.”

The damage to Hamlin’s car ruined a promising start at one of the driver’s best tracks. Hamlin made an extra pit stop to check for possible overheating of his car and dropped to 15th for a restart on Lap 392.

After leading 111 laps and winning the first stage of the race, Hamlin finished 12th.