Three weeks ago, I wrote about Kevin Harvick doing what he had to do to muscle his way out of the first round of The Chase.
Well, he did it again. Just this time, a little bit differently.
At Dover, Harvick dominated to pick up the win and move on when he and his Stewart Haas Racing team was back against the wall after two bad races to start NASCAR Sprint Cup’s playoffs. This time, what Harvick did to move on was not nearly as clean and was a hell of lot more controversial.
On a green-white-checkered restart with Harvick knowing that his engine was about to expire, he clipped the car of Trevor Bayne, bringing out a caution. It was the only way he was moving on. This was all possible because NASCAR said they were only giving the drivers one shot at a green-white-checkered finish at Talladega. Normally, they get three attempts to finish the race under green. More about this later.
Did Harvick do it deliberately? That is the question everyone is trying to answer.
Well, I can’t say if he did or he didn’t (although I would lean toward “you’re damn right he did).
All the other drivers, especially the ones who were eliminated from Chase contention, say he did in on purpose because he knew he was not moving on otherwise. Harvick says it was not intentional. NASCAR President Mike Helton has sided with Harvick and he is moving on to round three.
“Obviously there are some teams that questioned what (Harvick) did on a restart,” said Helton. “But procedurally we haven’t seen anything, so far, on the restart that is suspect. We believe that we have done everything procedurally correct so far and (Harvick) did nothing wrong.”
We had this wrecking conversation last week vis-à-vis Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth and it bears repeating that it’s part of racing. Sometimes you just have to put a bumper to a guy to get ahead – or at least not get farther behind. Here is my problem with the whole situation: NASCAR said one green-white-checkered attempt, then there was a wreck on the first attempt and NASCAR said it was not really an attempt so they got to have two attempts, even though they said they were only going to do one.
Confused? So am I.
I wrote in a column a long time ago that NASCAR was fighting a battle between looking corrupt and inept. Here we are again. If Helton and NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France want to be taken seriously as a major sports league on par with the NFL or the NBA or MLB, they can’t keep fighting this battle between two condemnable traits. Since I started writing this column in July, I have written about cars getting in the air and low- and high-downforce packages; all things that NASCAR can fix – but haven’t.
Other than Logano, who won his third straight race, sweeping the second round, there wasn’t a person who left ‘Dega happy. That includes the fans, who were deprived of a green flag finish and a possible Dale Earnhardt Jr race win.
I hate to speak for a group of people, but I think I can say that NASCAR fans want consistency. Don’t make it up as you go. Set the rules – be they the ones governing the aero or the restarts or green-white-checkered finishes – and keep them. Again, do not make it up as you go. It makes you look like a bunch of rank amateurs. And your fans deserve better.
Andy Cagle writes a weekly column about NASCAR. Follow him on Twitter @Andy_Cagle.