A lap 226 altercation saw Matt Kenseth wheel-hop the right-rear tire of his Dollar General Toyota while diving under Harvick in Martinsville’s tight first turn. Contact between the two sent Harvick spinning into the outside wall, doing significant damage that forced him to the garage for more than 40 laps while repairs were made.
The steam boiling from Harvick’s Chevrolet paled in comparison to the smoke rolling from his ears. “Happy Harvick” was anything but happy Sunday, and he didn’t care who knew it.
“(Kenseth) won’t win this championship,” he vowed. “If we don’t, he won’t.”
While insisting that the crash was purely accidental, Kenseth said he understood the anger.
“It was a mistake,” said the former Sprint Cup Series champion. “He knows it was a mistake, but that doesn’t really help him. (Harvick) was an innocent bystander… in the wrong place at the wrong time. I totally understand how he feels and I totally understand why he would say that. I don’t blame him for feeling like that.”
Kenseth soldiered on after the crash, overcoming cosmetic damage to finish a solid sixth. He currently holds the final transfer spot to the championship finale at Homestead Miami Speedway, just two weeks away. Harvick, meanwhile, stands on the brink of elimination, 28 points away from a transfer. It will almost certainly take a win – Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway or next week in Phoenix – for Harvick’s championship dream to survive.
“It’s definitely not the way we wanted it to all play out,” said Harvick Sunday. “I thought we had worked our way to where we needed to be (at Martinsville). Everybody was so worried about us starting in the back and we wrecked at the front. It’s unfortunate.”
Post-race histrionics notwithstanding, the Stewart Haas Racing driver knows there can be no thoughts of revenge at either Texas or Phoenix. With his championship hopes on life support, Harvick and his Rodney Childers-led team must be fully focused on the task at hand; winning one of the next two races. Like Brad Keselowski at Talladega, Harvick is capable of authoring a Game Seven moment, but only if he puts Sunday’s hard feelings aside.
“That’s the great part about this format,” he admitted. “We’ve got two more weeks (at) two racetracks we can win on.”
For Kevin Harvick and the Budweiser Chevrolet team, the choice is clear.
Do you want to fight? Or do you want to win?