THIS ISN'T a good week to be Kevin Harvick. The defending Sprint Cup champion was verbally slammed by several drivers for his role in the second green/white/checkered restart Sunday at Talladega.
Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates who failed to advance to the Eliminator round, criticized Harvick. Trevor Bayne said Harvick purposely wrecked him. Other than that, Harvick had a dull day at Talladega.
Harvick knew there was an engine problem in his No. 4 Chevrolet. If he had yielded his position on the restart, it's likely he would've had a poor finish and been dropped from Chase title contention.
His instructions from crew chief Rodney Childers were to block as many cars as possible on the restart. When the field took the green flag, Bayne pulled high on the track attempting to pass the slower Harvick. As Bayne moved past Harvick their cars made contact, triggering a race-ending wreck.
Credit Harvick for showing up and answering questions at Tuesday's Chase media session at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
Referring to the drivers criticizing him, Harvick said: "From their perspective, I can understand their frustration of not being in the Chase, or whatever the circumstances may be. So I'm not going to throw stones, because I don't believe that's probably the right thing to do.
"I didn't cause the first wreck. I definitely don't believe that I caused the second wreck, either. It's just one of those situations where I did the best I could on the restarts to get going. I got out of the way. I never even really saw the (No.) 6 car (Bayne) until he was by me.
"It's just one of those situations where you can't stop. You have to continue to try to let it play out. Those guys wrecked the first time. Obviously, the situation with the restart was what it was, so . . . We moved on."
On the second restart, Harvick said he was hoping for a push from Bayne.
"I was trying to just get going," he said.
Harvick insisted he doesn't have to defend himself.
"If those guys were in the same situation," he said, "and their car would still function, it's like a football player: If his knee's blown out and he's playing in the Super Bowl, he's going to try to play as long as he can.
"We maintained the speed on the caution. If all the circumstances would have been different, it might have had a different outcome."
Chaser Carl Edwards, a teammate of Hamlin and Kenseth, supports the view that Harvick was wrong.
"It appears that Kevin (Harvick) and the 4 team, they had to have a caution in order to preserve their position," Edwards said. "They were aware of that, and it appears that they caused that caution. That makes me uncomfortable that, if that's the case, a team could do something that's calculated to alter the outcome of the most important race of the year.
"Things happen in the heat of battle. We've all done things in the heat of battle, but if that's the case, if that's what happened, then that's just too bad. I guess NASCAR looked at it closely, and, if they think there was nothing wrong there, then that's the way we move forward. Nobody really knows."
While Harvick is in the Eliminator round, he's having a stressful Chase. Following the Chase-opening Chicagoland race, Harvick shoved six-time titlist Jimmie Johnson, because he was upset that Johnson side-smacked him, causing him to crash and finish 42nd. After running out of fuel at New Hampshire in next Chase race, Harvick departed without commenting. Uneasy lies the crown upon the reigning champion . . .
One appeal of covering NASCAR is, there's always something lively to write about.
Talladega a TV hit
No surprise that Talladega's TV rating was a positive 2.6, with 4.2 million viewers. The numbers tied the August NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono as the second-highest NBCSN telecast.
What seemed odd was Talladega aired on NBCSN while the Formula One race at Austin, Texas was on NBC. The rating for the F1 race was an IndyCar-ish 0.58, with 889,000 viewers. NBC put Talladega on its cable cousin to drive more viewers there.
A tip of the ol' restrictor plate to Joey Logano for sweeping all three races in the Contender round. Logano has established himself as a major force for his first Cup series title. He leads seven other drivers into the Eliminator round . . . Something is wrong with a system in which a driver, Denny Hamlin, is second in points after the first two races of the Contender round, but fails to advance to the Eliminator round because of one bad finish, at Talladega.
This week's race
Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500
Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, Va.
When: Sunday, 1:15 p.m.
TV/Radio: NBCSN/WNPV (1440-AM)
Course: .526-mile oval
Distance: 500 laps/263 miles
Forecast: showers, low 60s
Last year’s winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last year’s pole: Jamie McMurray, 99.905 mph
Track qualifying record: Joey Logano, 100.201 mph (March 2014); Logano set the record in the first round of qualifying. In the second round, when the pole is awarded, Kyle Busch was fastest at 99.674.
Track facts: Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed Tony Stewart with four laps to go last year to gain his first Martinsville victory. Earnhardt led 79 total laps. Runner-up Jeff Gordon paced the most laps, 130 ... Denny Hamlin won this year’s spring race at Martinsville, for his fifth victory at the track. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have the most wins among active drivers, eight each ... Chasers who are winless at Martinsville are Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr.
Wins: Joey Logano, 6; Matt Kenseth, 5; Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, 4 each; Kevin Harvick, 3; Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin, 2 each; Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr., 1 each.
1. Joey Logano 4,000
2. Carl Edwards 4,000
3. Jeff Gordon 4,000
4. Kurt Busch 4,000
5. Brad Keselowski 4,000
6. Martin Truex Jr. 4,000
7. Kevin Harvick 4,000
8. Kyle Busch 4,000
Up next: AAA Texas 500, Nov. 8, Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas, 2 p.m.; TV: NBC10; last year's winner: Jimmie Johnson.