Since confirming in November of last year that Kevin Harvick would leave Richard Childress Racing for a new position with Stewart Haas Racing in 2014, both driver and team have provided a case study in how to dissolve partnerships in a professional, dignified manner. They have steadfastly avoided the kind of second-guessing and finger pointing that doomed other “lame duck” teams in the past, setting new standards for civility and competitiveness while winning races and qualifying for this year’s Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Unfortunately, all that good will went out the window in the blink of an eye Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.
When Harvick and Ty Dillon tangled in the waning laps of Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series “Kroger 200,” it unleashed an eruption of animosity and ill-will that has apparently simmered beneath the surface for quite some time.
Driving in a one-off role for NTS Motorsports, Harvick tangled with Dillon while racing for second place Saturday, causing both drivers to crash out of contention. Dillon, grandson of team owner Richard Childress, rammed Harvick repeatedly after the crash, while Childress goaded him via in-car radio to “turn (Harvick’s) ass over.”
Harvick drove his damaged truck to pit road and stopped briefly in Dillon's pit stall, where he was swarmed by several members of the RCR crew. Heated words were exchanged before NASCAR officials intervened, and one of Dillon’s crewmen hurled a hammer at Harvick. After the race, an angry Harvick leveled charges of nepotism against RCR, calling Dillon and older brother Austin “punk-ass kids” and Saturday’s incident, "exactly the reason why I'm leaving RCR.
“You've got those kids coming up, and they've got no respect for what they do in this sport,” said Harvick. “They've had everything fed to them with a spoon."
Childress responded angrily, saying he was "very disappointed" in Harvick’s comments and conduct. "I've got too much class to say what I want to say right now,” claimed the longtime NASCAR team owner. “When I say it, I will say it to (Harvick’s) face."
Harvick apologized for his comments the following day, telling FOX Sports 1’s NASCAR RACEDAY, “I hate it for everybody at RCR. When you go back and look at the things that happened, sometimes you regret the things that you say. Yesterday was definitely one of them.
“I hate it for my guys, and everybody working on the cars,” said Harvick, a 13-year RCR employee. “Obviously, when those emotional situations come about, you say things that you really don't want to say. I want to apologize to all of those guys (and ask them to) work hard today and try and do everything we can to win the race.”
While confirming that Harvick will finish the season in the No. 29 Chevrolet, Childress stressed Sunday that his longtime driver’s comments are unlikely to be forgotten.
"What happened on the track was one thing, but the comments afterward are where I'm really upset,” he said. “I'll never apologize for giving my grandsons an opportunity, just like the France family, the Earnhardt family, the Wood Brothers. Go down the list of the people that have been given opportunities (and) all of them didn't make it. You've got to go out and earn what you've got... and these boys earned it."
Childress said he spoke with Harvick Sunday morning and will give him “everything humanly possible to win that championship. I'm committed to him for four more races,” he said. “I shook his hand and committed I'd give him 100 percent, and I'm going to do it. But I'm not going to be backed into a corner.”
After 13 years and a laundry list of successes -- on and off the racetrack – both Childress and Harvick deserved a better end that what happened Saturday in Virginia. Unfortunately, both men were betrayed by the same competitive nature that made them so successful to begin with.
I didn't do the right thing yesterday,” admitted Harvick. “I think it's best for all of us to just cool down and have a sensible conversation about things. I wish that's what I would have done yesterday... but I don't have anybody else to blame but myself."