The NASCAR world had waited for weeks. Since Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott had tangled at Bristol during the race and had multiple confrontations after, everyone wondered if the 2014 Cup Series champion would live up to his postrace comments and follow through on his threat of retaliation against the defending champ.
Harvick delivered on Sunday at the Charlotte Roval late in the race, wrecking Elliott in the final stage. However, the Stewart-Haas driver crashed himself and didn’t advance while the Hendrick Motorsports driver finished 12th and is moving on to the next round. After the race, Kyle Busch called Harvick “dirty,” said Elliott wasn’t the only one the No. 4 car pushed around on the track, and suggested that could be problematic for him in the future.
Kevin Harvick wrecks Chase Elliott and then crashes into wall and out of playoffs
After two races with no response, many questioned whether Kevin Harvick would wreck Chase Elliott following the pair’s multiple incidents and postrace confrontations at Bristol. On Sunday, early in Stage 3, Harvick answered those questions when he deliberately wrecked Elliott, sending the No. 9 hard into the wall, causing severe damage to his car and playoff hopes, and dropping him below the cutline.
However, in an unexpected plot twist, Harvick, with Elliott just a few car lengths behind, felt the pressure and ran into the wall with less than 15 laps to go, ending his race and any hopes of winning a second championship.
“I just pushed it in there too hard and got the tire locked up and I couldn’t stop it,” Harvick said in the postrace interview. “I felt like I needed to go to get a couple of spots back that I had lost and I got the left front locked up and I couldn’t get it to turn.”
Harvick finished 33rd. Elliott finished 12th and advanced to the round of eight.
Kyle Busch calls Harvick ‘dirty’ and warns about future retaliation from other drivers
Kyle Busch has struggled at the Charlotte Roval, his best finish a 30th in last year’s event. Before this year’s race, his comments reflected those past results, comparing the track to “racing in a parking lot.”
After a fourth-place finish on Sunday, Busch’s animosity toward the track might have decreased, but the same cannot be said of his feelings toward Harvick and his racing.
“The 4 was ’bout running over everybody. He didn’t make very many friends out there today,” Busch candidly admitted. “That just kind of goes to show what you’ve got to do in these races and it doesn’t matter whose feelings you hurt and what’s going to come back on you next week. We saw it with me last year. The 4 dumped me in Martinsville. Can’t say that I’ve been guilty of that yet. There’s some dirty dudes out there.”
Wrecked Kyle Busch last year in playoffs
Busch’s reference to Harvick dumping him last year at Martinsville was quite similar to the Roval incident with Elliott. Also in an elimination race, Harvick intentionally spun Busch on the final lap just before the finish line. Busch completed a 360 and crossed the line, while the No. 4 car spun and crashed backward into the wall. Busch advanced. Harvick didn’t.
Before the start of this year’s playoffs and with last year’s incident with Harvick still fresh on his mind, the two-time Cup Series champion talked about the keys to a successful playoff run. He said not creating enemies is a top priority.
“Not really trying to put yourself in a bad spot. Every spot is important, especially if you’re trying to point your way through the rounds if you don’t have chances of winning,” Busch said. “If you’re coming down and you’re running fifth, but fourth and third are right there in front of you, at say Bristol, wanting to pass those guys and get by those guys but not creating enemies in the way of going about that and setting yourself up for a future hard time at the next race with that guy. You’re just trying to do what you can to be as clean as you can.”
On Sunday, Harvick set himself up for a future hard time at the upcoming races. And according to Busch, it could be multiple drivers looking for payback.