A couple of points to ponder from Saturday night’s NASCAR Playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway:
It can be argued that the disagreement between reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott and former champion Kevin Harvick was much ado about almost nothing. After all, neither driver wrecked; both finished the race and advanced into Round 2 of the Playoff; no punches or helmets were thrown; and neither driver was punished by NASCAR for their post-race behavior. All in all, just another Saturday night at Thunder Valley.
It also can be argued that Elliott likely contributed to Harvick ’s 29th consecutive loss this year, and that makes it a semi-big deal. Harvick won a series-high nine races last year and his 2021 fall from grace has not been pretty. Witness that he’s led only 200 laps all season, a staggering 1,416 fewer than last year at this time. (FYI: he led more laps in winning last fall at Bristol than he has in 29 starts this year). He’s a cinch Hall of Famer with at least one victory in 17 of his 21 Cup seasons, so his latest slump is puzzling.
But there’s never been a Bristol race that didn’t end with at least one or two drivers arguing with one or two others about some on-track incident. The truth is, you just can’t run 500 laps at that place without getting into someone’s way, intentionally or otherwise. Elliott probably blocked when he didn’t need to and Harvick probably retaliated by bumping Elliott’s left side, but that’s happened in every short-track race in NASCAR history.
Harvick vs. Elliott was mild compared to the numerous helmet-throwing incidents the speedway and NASCAR use to promote upcoming races. If there was contact during their confrontation on pit road, it was hardly enough to mention. Accusations and threats and finger pointing are routine at Bristol … and generally quickly forgotten.
Even if—as Harvick claims—Elliott probably cost him a victory and helped teammate Kyle Larson win, it’s not like it’s never happened before. Predictably, each blamed the other:
“Just chickenshit,” Harvick, who finished second, told reporters when asked about the incident. “I mean, what else do you say? Throw a temper tantrum like you’re 2-years-old because you got passed for the lead and got a flat tire. We barely even rubbed. It’s all Chase’s way or it’s no way; if he doesn’t get his way, then he throws a fit. I told him I wanted to rip his freaking head off.”
Said Elliott, who finished 25th, three laps down: “It’s something he does all the time. He runs into your left side constantly at other tracks and sometimes it does cut your left side and other times it doesn’t.” (Elliott lost three laps with a late green-flag pit stop after their contact). “He did it to me at Darlington a few weeks ago because he was tired of racing with me. Whether he did it on purpose, it doesn’t matter.
“At some point you’ve got to draw the line. I don’t care who he is or how long he’s been doing it. I’m going to stand up for myself, my team and we’ll go on down the road. He gets upset with you and turns into your left side and hopes you cut a left-side tire down. It happens more than I can count on two hands in my career racing in Cup. Six years and more than 10 times. I’ve had enough.”
The bottom line is that when Elliott and Harvick touched near the front with 30-some laps remaining, both were already assured of advancing into Round 2, no matter where they finished. Their disagreement would have been elevated significantly if the contact had eliminated either from moving on.
As it was, they both survived and remain in the championship hunt. And that’s the way these things usually work out. Except for when it doesn’t.
Source: Read Full Article