Saturday, September 10, 2011

Harvick Weathers A Busy Friday

Kevin Harvick had a busy day Friday.

In a 24-hour period, he announced that his highly successful NASCAR Nationwide Series program will merge with Richard Childress Racing at season’s end, with KHI’s #2 and #33 Chevrolets being fielded out of the RCR shops in 2012. He announced the termination of his potent Camping World Truck Series operation, a move that will shut down a three-truck team that has showcased the talents of drivers Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Nelson Piquet, Jr., while also giving a number of Sprint Cup Series headliners occasional Truck Series starts.

Then Friday night, he strapped into his Rheem-sponsored #33 Nationwide Series Chevrolet and earned the ire of fellow drivers Jason Leffler and Trevor Bayne with a pair of controversial incidents.

His on-track exploits began on lap 79 of the Virginia 529 College Savings 250, when he drove into the back of driver Jason Leffler and sent the Turner Motorsports driver backward into the Turn Three retaining wall. Leffler – who has reportedly been told he will not return to the #38 Chevrolet next season – was clearly angered by the incident, swerving toward Harvick during the ensuing caution period.

Later, Leffler once again expressed his displeasure with Harvick, brake-checking his nemesis and causing Harvick to check-up unexpectedly. Left with nowhere to go, Bayne hit Harvick’s car from behind, hard enough to damage the nose of his own Roush Fenway Racing Ford. A lap later, Harvick and Bayne tangled again at the exit of Turn Tow, with Harvick brushing the outside wall before shooting back across the track and hooking Bayne in the right-rear tire. Bayne’s car slammed the Turn Three wall with sufficient force to end his day, and minced no words in criticizing Harvick afterward.

“(Harvick) was blocking me and I was way faster and trying to race him clean,” said Bayne.. “He catches (Leffler), who must have been mad at him. I don’t know what was going on. (Leffler) tried to wreck him and (Harvick) stopped in front of me and crushed our hood. Then he chopped me again off the corner and checked up. It got him sideways and he just wrecked us.

“I don’t understand what the deal is, or why he would race like that. Harvick is normally a way better racer than that.”

Harvick took the blame for the initial, Lap 79 crash, saying, ““I just got into Leffler. I got in there and rolled too fast and made a mistake. And when Trevor got into the back of me off of Turn Two, I got into the fence with the right rear, then I got in the fence with the right front, then I came back across the track and hit him.”

Bayne accused Harvick of having an ulterior motive, saying the KHI driver/owner was blocking for teammate Elliott Sadler, who is locked in a razor-close battle with Roush Fenway driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., for the Nationwide Series championship.

“He wants (Sadler) to win a championship,” said Bayne. “But (Stenhouse] is going to wear him out anyway, hopefully. It is frustrating when people race like that, when I am not even in points contention. I’m out there trying to win.”

Harvick scoffed at Bayne’s accusation, calling it “crazy. I was trying to keep from getting run over by the 38. He hit me in the back and he got himself wrecked. It’s just one of those deals. I hate the way that it all turned out, but all in all, it’s short-track racing I guess.”

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