Sunday, September 02, 2012

"Bottle-Gate" Controversy A Case Of Mistaken Identity

Race fans have long said that when NASCAR throws a caution flag, they want to see the cause. They got their wish Saturday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway – sort of – triggering a controversy that eventually included Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and race-winner Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
Harvick was fast, but unlucky.
It all began when NASCAR threw a caution flag for debris on the race track late in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series NRA American Warrior 300. The stoppage came near the end of a series of green-flag pit stops, allowing two drivers – one of them Keselowski – to pit under caution for fresh tires. Keselowski used that advantage to push Stenhouse part Harvick and into the lead of a race the Richard Childress Racing driver had thoroughly dominated.
During the decisive caution period, ESPN showed viewers footage of Keselowski tossing a plastic water bottle out the window of his No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge, followed by pictures of track workers picking up an identical bottle under the yellow flag. Harvick's team – and thousands of viewers nationwide – put two and two together, assuming Keselowski’s discarded bottle to be the cause of the caution. Harvick confronted his fellow driver after the race, then questioned his sportsmanship in a post-race Media Center interview, accusing the Penske Racing driver of intentionally bringing out the caution flag.
"It's pretty obvious," said a steaming-mad Harvick. "They put (Keselowski’s thrown bottle) on TV and showed it, and the caution came out the same lap. He told me after the race: 'You've never thrown a water bottle out?' You know what that means.
"He told me it was intentional. So it is what it is."
"Sleep good," said Harvick to Keselowski, before reportedly patting the former Nationwide champion’s face lightly while leaving the Media Center.
For his part, Keselowski seemed puzzled by the controversy, insisting that he tossed the bottle from his car many laps before the caution was thrown. He also pointed out – correctly – that tossing empty bottles onto the track apron while exiting pit road is a common practice employed by all drivers, and is not intended to draw a yellow flag.
NASCAR eventually put an end to the dispute, explaining that while a bottle was picked up under caution, it was not the cause of the stoppage.
Keselowski says he did nothing wrong.
"The debris TV showed first was a water bottle, (but it was) not why we threw the caution," said NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton. "There was a piece of aluminum up there... some debris up on the outside getting into Turn 1. While the caution was out, we picked up the water bottle, also."
He also confirmed that drivers are allowed to throw empty bottles from their cars, saying, “We understand that they do it. Normally, (the bottles) wind up falling to the inside of the track or the apron. Occasionally, (we throw a caution) when they throw out a big drink bottle and we can't tell what it is, but that's been awhile. We don't (penalize) anybody for throwing plastic water bottles out."
While insisting it was misdirected, Keselowski said he understood Harvick’s unhappiness
"If you're not mad about (losing), you're not a racer,” he said. "How can I sit here and bash Kevin? Kevin is a racer, and he had the best car and didn't win. If he wasn't mad as hell, I would personally be mad at him, because that's his job. That's why he's a great racer. Sometimes in racing, you do everything right and it just doesn't work out.
"Just give him some time,” urged Keselowski. “He'll figure out the situation with NASCAR. Cooler heads will prevail, and that's just the way it is."
Photo: John Harrelson/Getty Images


  1. after reading this and watching the reaction on speed, I've come to the conclusion that Harvick is a baby. But i do like his wife.

    Paw Paw, MI

  2. Anonymous7:02 PM

    I think Brad handled the issue with class and maturity. He was in right and had done nothing wrong, and rather than escalate the situation he shrugged it off and even defended Kevin's reaction.

  3. Anonymous7:39 PM

    I believe his sole intention when he threw the bottle was to try to get a caution. It was far from empty and was dropped not thrown.

  4. Anonymous10:22 PM

    Harvick, whine without the cheese

    Doug from NJ

    Have a GREAT Labor Day Godfather

  5. I'm not buying it. I've seen drivers toss the bottles out before. It's usually on the back straight, and they chuck them a bit. Brad looked like he was sneaking the bottle out of the car on the in car video, and he did it in a turn where the centrifugal force pushes the bottle up the track, as opposed to the back straight where it would roll harmlessly to the apron. His demeanor after the race when he was questioned by the reporter right after Harvick talked with Brad, seemed cat eating canary-ish. It was a shady move. Brad knows it, and NASCAR knows it.

  6. Whether Brad threw it out to get a caution or not is irrelevant to me. Every single driver does it I don't care who says they don't. As far as Saturday goes, this argument is a moot point to me. I only caught a few laps of that race but when that caution flew ESPN clearly shows a safety truck out there picking up what looked like metal debris. For me it ended there. Harvick is being Harvick and stirring the pot since he felt like he had a win taken away from him. I give Brad alot of credit for handling the situation the way he did. Perfect time to say nothing which I can't say I would have predicted from Brad. The little tap in the media center? Surprised Harvick didn't get a fight right there. Should make for an interesting Chase if these two get together a few times and are in the thick of the title hunt.