Kevin Harvick: ‘I know for sure that Tony Stewart is not going to run over somebody on a racetrack”

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BROOKLYN, Mich. – Kevin Harvick is one of Tony Stewart’s closest friends. There’s a lot of loyalty, trust and similar competitive spirit back and forth between the pair to practically make them brothers.

That friendship was at the core of Harvick’s decision to leave Richard Childress Racing after 13 seasons and move to Stewart-Haas Racing this season.

As a result, with Stewart in seclusion, still grieving over the Aug. 9 sprint car accident that claimed the life of young driver Kevin Ward Jr., and with Stewart not having made any comments other than a brief statement the day after the incident, Harvick came to Stewart’s defense following Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

“I’ve known Tony Stewart for a long time,” Harvick said. “You look, you know, you see what happened. I still don’t believe that he even knew that he ran into that car.

“I know for sure that Tony Stewart is not going to run over somebody that’s on a racetrack. I don’t think there’s anybody in this garage that would. It would be hard to find somebody in the racing world that could point that car, just run somebody over.”

Harvick, who said he has not spoken to Stewart to allow him to work through his own grief over the incident, did take exception to the way much of the media has portrayed the incident and related fallout.

“It has been a difficult week,” Harvick said. “I think the hardest part for me has been the way the whole media thing has shaken down. It’s an absolute tragic accident that has happened on both sides of the fence.

“You have one young man who is dead. You’ve got a guy that we know and are part of an organization that is just getting a lot of just crazy press.

“You have just a lot of unknowledgeable people reporting on a situation that know absolutely nothing about racing. It’s just really unfortunate, the perception that has been given to him.

“I know he’ll stay strong and fight and he’ll get the right people and do all the right things. That’s the part that’s bothered me the most, is just the poor misrepresentation on the media side for him.”

Harvick lauded members of the Stewart-Haas organization for not only supporting their leader, but also in the way they’ve maintained their focus in spite of all the distractions, particularly from the media.

“Everybody just has to pitch in and do their part, make sure we do everything we can to help Tony get through his situation,” Harvick said.

“There’s a lot of strong people at our company. Gene (co-owner Gene Haas) brings a lot to the table from a financial standpoint, being a leader. There’s a lot of great sponsors that are there that are very supportive of everything we’re doing.

“I think it’s added more fire to everybody just to step up and keep everything headed in the right direction.”

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NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.