Kevin Harvick-Kyle Busch rivalry has matured

DOVER, DE - MAY 04: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John's Ford, talks with Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Pedigree Toyota, during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander RV 400 at Dover International Speedway on May 4, 2019 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

To hear Kevin Harvick tell it, the undisguised animosity he once felt for Kyle Busch has mellowed over the years.

“Oh, man, I wanted to rip Kyle Busch’s head off for a long time, and now I enjoy being around Kyle and racing with Kyle,” Harvick said on Saturday morning at Pocono Raceway. “And the reason I think that is, for me, there’s a respect that comes with what he does on the race track, so I enjoy beating Kyle.

“I know Kyle enjoys beating me, and I enjoy racing Kyle, but I also understand that when it’s all said and done, he’s going to be one of the greatest that goes through the sport.”

Busch believes the turnaround started in 2014 when Harvick moved to Stewart-Haas Racing and when Harvick’s son Keelan was born. Busch also thinks the surge in social media has had an effect on quelling rivalries in the sport, rather than enhancing them.

“Now you have people on their computers, on their cell phones, on whatever all day long talking about it or whatever with not just one, two, three people at their job site, but hundreds and thousands on their social media platform and the voice just gets louder and becomes more annoying,” Busch said.

“Got to mind your ‘p’s and ‘q’s a little bit more and kind of let it die quietly at the race track. When it picks up, because you run into someone else, and then it picks up again, it starts all over. You try to squash it, I guess.”

In Harvick’s current view, it’s perhaps best not to make enemies in the first place. His prime example? Jimmie Johnson.

“Did Jimmie Johnson have a beef with anybody?” Harvick asked rhetorically. “I don’t think so. That’s probably why he won seven championships. He had this grudge thing figured out long before I did, so it’s a different world.”

Greg Engle