Kevin Harvick may be a marked man. That’s according to the Richard Childress Racing team of driver Austin Dillon.
Harvick, still clinging on to a spot in NASCAR’s Chase, tangled with Dillon, who was eliminated from the Chase after Talladega, Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
Pole sitter Dillon was trying to work his way forward late in the going. He had led 6 laps on the night, all during a green-yellow period to start the rain delayed race as NASCAR used the racecars to finish drying the track. Dillon had fallen back but was surging towards the front as more rain threatened to end the race early. He first encountered an issue on lap 255. Entering turn 3, Dillon’s Chevy got loose and he went for a solo spin that brought out the caution. Amazingly, he didn’t hit anything and in fact was able to keep his fourth place spot.
After pit stops, Dillon was again trying to charge forward. On lap 263 however, Dillon was running fifth when he slipped up in front of Harvick as the two exited turn 4. Dillon’s car appeared to get nudged from behind by Harvick and Dillon, slid up and careened into the outside wall hard. The car shot back across the track collecting the car of Casey Mears as well as Brian Scott.
On his team radio during the ensuing caution, Harvick apologized saying he didn’t realize that Dillon had checked up. On the team radio for the Dillon there were voices of displeasure over the incident. A team member, believed to be crew chief Slugger Labbe, could be heard saying that Harvick had wrecked Dillon, with comments such as “Time to get mad,” and “Write down that number, we are going to Phoenix and he (Harvick) is going to need a win and we don’t.”
Dillon was able to get his damaged car to the garage, as the crew tried to repair it, an obviously upset Dillon refused to call the crash a racing incident and instead put the blame on Harvick.
“No, he (Kevin Harvick) sucked down on my door all the way, like on it,” Dillon said. “I get it, you’ve got to hold a guy down, but he sucked down on my door and got me tight. That is the reason I slid up in front of him and then he didn’t lift he just turned me. There are two more weeks left.”
“I mean, he is tucked down to my door tighter than anybody did all night,” Dillon added. “He knew how tight he was on my door and that is why I got tight and slid up in front of him. He didn’t check (up), but he had the opportunity to. He didn’t like it that the silver spoon kid was out-running him tonight. So we will be alright, we have two weeks left and we just want to come out and win a race.”
The “silver-spoon kid” reference came from an incident between Harvick and Austin’s younger brother Ty during a Truck Series race at Martinsville in 2013, just after Harvick announced he was leaving the Childress team at the end of the season to join Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick and Ty had tangled on the track, and Harvick retaliated under caution. Ty Dillon then hit the truck of Harvick entering pit road.
“The 3 (of Dillon) just dumped me,” Harvick said after getting out of his truck. “Exactly the reason I’m leaving RCR because you’ve got those kids coming up and they’ve got no respect for what they do in this sport and they’ve had everything fed to them with a spoon. … It’s a shame you’ve got to get taken out by some rich kid like that.”
Harvick would apologize for his remarks a day later saying, “sometimes you regret the things that you say for sure. … Yesterday was definitely one of them,”
Sunday night, Harvick was also contrite, and remained apologetic after the race.
“I just want to apologize to the 3 (car, Austin Dillon),” Harvick said as soon as he got out of his car. “He kind of came up there and he slid in front of me and got loose and when he checked up I hit him again. That was not anything I wanted to see.”
“Slugger says a lot of things that he shouldn’t,” Harvick added. “ All-in-all there was no intent there and I like racing with Austin and I like everything that they do and there was no reason to…I was running seventh and sixth. We were on a restart there and he slid up, and he got loose, and I hit the back of him.”
Harvick finished sixth Sunday night; Dillon was posted in 37th with a DNF.
What might happen over the course of the next two weeks after Sunday’s incident is open to conjecture. Last season Matt Kenseth, upset after a tangle with Joey Logano that ended up losing a race for Kenseth, dumped Logano at Martinsville. Kenseth had already been eliminated from the Chase, Logano, at that point was still a favorite. Logano would be eliminated from the Chase, and Kenseth drew a two-race suspension from NASCAR.
Sunday night Dillon seemed to indicate that he has only one goal in the remainder of the season and had no real comment on his crew chief’s remarks.
“I don’t know,” Dillon said. “I am just here to win races and that is all that matters to me.”