CONCORD, NC — Rick Hendrick has seen this script before. In fact, it truly was a script from a Hollywood movie and that movie was based of real life events. One of Hendrick’s drivers, Geoff Bodine, had a feud years ago with Dale Earnhardt. It got heated. The pair would intentionally crash each other on the race track. Finally, NASCAR had enough. They forced the two parties to meet with them which is what sparked the part in the movie…Days of Thunder.
Hendrick lived it then saw it on the big screen.
Well, Hendrick is a part of it again. His Most Popular Driver and defending NASCAR Cup Series champion in Chase Elliott was standing up for himself. Elliott, felt he was wronged by Kevin Harvick in the Round of 16 cutoff race at Bristol. Harvick, made contact with Elliott’s left rear tire and cut it down. Elliott, felt that move by Harvick was on purpose so he took matters back in his own hands.
He was a lap down after having an unscheduled stop, but happened to be in front of Harvick, who was leading at the time. Elliott, with a good race car still, was mired a lap down and thought that he could just run Harvick’s line and keep him behind him.
He did that lap after lap which in turn allowed Kyle Larson, Elliott’s HMS teammate, to close in and pass Harvick for the win. Harvick, took offense to that move and the duo chatted on pit lane, in the garage area as well as in Elliott’s hauler.
We all wondered if this was truly done or not. Well, Elliott may have thought it was but it was far from over for Harvick. On Lap 54, he purposely punted Elliott out of his way. The contact sent Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet into the Turn 8 wall and badly damaged it in the process.
This was now war. Elliott vowed payback and if/when he caught up to Harvick, he was going to be sure to send his message back. In fact, they admitted to it.
If William Byron, Alex Bowman or Christopher Bell didn’t win, then the final spot to the Round of 8 would come down to Harvick or Elliott. So, all Elliott had to do was take Harvick out. I mean, payback was not in Elliott’s court right?
Alan Gustafson, Elliott’s crew chief reminded him of that. Elliott said he’d take care of it. His spotter said the same. If Elliott got to Harvick, he was going to punt him on purpose.
Would NASCAR stand for this? You can’t shape playoff spots with cars being used as weapons against each other.
Luckily, Harvick took himself out in a rare mistake by the 2014 series champion by missing the corner in Turn 1 on Lap 98 and running straight into the wall. At that time, Elliott had finally caught Harvick. Was he mirror driving and missed the turn because of that?
It sure seems like it.
“Sometimes real life teaches you good lessons,” Harvick said the NBC Sports’ broadcast after the crash. When asked if his move on Elliott was payback?
“You remember Bristol,” he said.
But, is this over now? Was this enough to satisfy both. Harvick got his payback and Elliott got karma. Harvick is out of the playoffs and Elliott marches on.
“I’m not sure” Elliott said on if he would have wrecked Harvick if he would have caught him. “I’m excited to be moving on. Opinion’s certainly not changing. But it’s all good. Just glad we’re moving on. Proud of our team.”
It showed resolve for them to fix the car enough to get a 12th place result and to move on. His boss is wanting this to end now too.
“I hope it’s over,” Hendrick said in the winners press conference. “We don’t want to race that way. We want to just race. That’s not our style. If a guy is better than you, he wins. Just do your job. If you get beat, you get beat. It never feels good to push somebody out of the way. I mean, a little rubbing or something, that’s OK. But just to wreck somebody, that’s not good.”
Hendrick praised the 9 team and Elliott for how they handled it. He said he knew how upset that they were and how upset everyone was with what transpired on Sunday.
“It looked like Chase could be done and out of the Playoffs. I mean, it was a lot of heated feelings. He came back, was able to win. Harvick wrecked himself, I guess,” he continued.
“I was upset. I was ready to go home. I mean, it was time to get the helicopter and get out of here. I mean, it was brutal. I’m not going to lie to you.
“That’s the lowest I’ve been since Talladega, I guess. We wrecked everything we had down there. Just hard to have a year like we’ve had, then it comes to crunch time, have issues.
“We haven’t had an alternator issue, I don’t think, all year. Here we are in the last race to advance to 8, and we have it in both cars. I’m glad the guys recovered. Then the issue with Chase. Then you have William, kid drove his heart out today.
“You got a variety of emotions. But it’s racing. At the end of the day, we got to celebrate. At one point today I didn’t think this was even possible, but the guys kept digging, and here we are.”
He said that he is open to NASCAR stepping in on this situation between Harvick and Elliott though because they’re the only ones who can get their attention to stop this before it goes too far.
“Well, I think they’re the only ones that can really stop it,” he said. “I hope they do because the crew chiefs and everybody can do the best they can, but it’s up to the drivers themselves.
“I’ve been in this situation before. NASCAR can handle it.”
We know Elliott isn’t going to create any more problems between he and Harvick because there’s more for him to lose. But, will Harvick let it go or make life rough on Elliott for the three races in the Round of 8. Remember, Harvick tried to wreck Kyle Busch on purpose on the final lap at Martinsville last year to get by into the Championship 4. Martinsville is the cutrace again. Elliott, needs to just steer clear of him now.
The thing is, I don’t necessarily think Harvick believes this is done. His mannerisms on Sunday in his brief interview appearances showed otherwise. The smirk in the end leads me to believe that if Elliott is around him at any point in Martinsville or even Phoenix, he may take it upon himself for more payback.
I hope I’m wrong. I don’t want to beat up on Harvick but if he feels like taking matters into his hands even further than this, then he’s got a lot of growing up and explaining to do. This should be over.
Harvick had every right to be mad about Bristol. But, what Elliott did then was just a matter of taking away his line. Harvick had other lanes he could have passed on. It’s not like Elliott cost his playoff chances because Harvick still finished second that night. Even if he had won and took five playoff points with him via that victory, it wouldn’t have helped him in the Round of 12 because he was eliminated by far more than five points.
Then, he used his car as a weapon in Sunday’s race at the ROVAL in Charlotte. A weapon. He purposely crashed Elliott. How does that look to a little boy that’s looking up to him who’s also a race car driver in his own house hold?
You can’t compare Bristol to purposely crashing someone in Charlotte. That’s two entirely different outcomes. Move Elliott out of the way? Sure. I can get that. Wreck him and almost ruin his championship hopes?
Crossed the line.
Karma bit Harvick because if he never did that to Elliott, then he never would have had to have been mirror driving when Elliott made his way back.
Yes, I get the gripe that NASCAR could have had Elliott get out of the way in Bristol or black flag him for his bumper in Charlotte, but these are balls-and-strikes calls and they chose to look the other way. Harvick took it upon himself to blatantly crash Elliott instead of race him straight up.
That’s because he couldn’t beat Elliott straight up. He had to rough up his rear quarter panel in Bristol. He had to crash him on purpose in Charlotte. That was his only hope of keeping his championship chances alive.
That’s why this needs to be done between the two. Elliott is done. Is Harvick….