Kevin Harvick said Tuesday he did everything he could to keep his NASCAR championship hopes alive during Sunday’s race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
To Harvick, that meant staying in the race with a crippled car and finishing high enough to qualify for the next round of the Chase.
And if that also meant being the catalyst for a last-lap wreck that handed the victory to Joey Logano, well, so be it.
“I was in a unique position, and that’s the way things shook out,” Harvick said of the incident that occurred on a second restart of a green-white-checkered finish in the CampingWorld.500, the cutoff race of the Chase’s second round. “I’m not going to quit and roll over and be done with it.”
There’s no doubt that the way Kevin started that last restart was to cause chaos.
The engine in Harvick’s No. 4 Chevy was in the process of failing, he said. But he was still able to maintain enough speed to stay with the other cars during caution laps. Maintaining his place was critical if he wanted to advance into the third round of the playoffs.
When the green flag flew on the restart, Harvick didn’t speed off like the rest of the field. Instead, he blocked Trevor Bayne, with that contact forcing another yellow flag and, with it, the end of the race.
“I did the best I could on the restart,” said Harvick, the 2014 Cup champion. “I hit the gas and as I was going up (Bayne) was going down. That was definitely the beginning point of what happened. I was just trying to get going. I didn’t even see (Bayne) until he was up beside me.”
Harvick’s move drew criticism from several drivers after the race, most notably Denny Hamlin, who entered the entered the race second in points but missed the cut when he finished 37th and out of the Chase after being caught in the wreck.
The field was frozen, with Harvick in 15th place – good enough for him to stay in the top eight and advance to the next round.
Harvick’s move drew criticism from several drivers after the race, most notably Denny Hamlin, who entered the race second in points but missed the cut when he finished 37th and out of the Chase after being caught in the wreck.
Harvick said as long as the rules allowed him to stay in the race – and he stressed that his car wasn’t leaking oil and was maintaining pace-car speed – then he was justified in staying in as long as he did. NASCAR, incidentally, announced Tuesday that the results of the race would stand.
Harvick said the stakes are too high to have done otherwise.
“If this was race No. 13 and I was in the same situation, I’d go to the pits,” Harvick said. “If it’s Talladega in the Chase, then you have to take the restart. You have to try. If it falls on the face and you crash, you still had that little glimmer of hope. It’s your season. That’s it.”
Driver Jeff Gordon, who is also in the Chase’s final eight, said he understood what Harvick did.
“There’s no doubt that the way Kevin started that last restart was to cause chaos,” Gordon said. “I don’t think he intentionally tried to take somebody out. But that was his shot and he did what he had to do. You can’t blame somebody for that.”
Kyle Busch felt the same way.
“Don’t hate the player,” Busch said of the situation. “Hate the game.”