That’s Bristol, baby: Battling for lead, Harvick wrecks Hamlin, Earnhardt gets collected

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Kevin Harvick got the lead in Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but it probably wasn’t exactly the way he wanted it to happen.

Denny Hamlin was leading the 500-lap race when Harvick attempted to get behind him on Lap 161.

Unfortunately for Hamlin, Harvick apparently misjudged how much room he had, got a bit too close and spun the No. 11 Toyota.

“I’m sorry, it was a mistake, a misjudgment,” Harvick said over his team radio.

Hamlin’s spinning Toyota then collected Dale Earnhardt Jr., who tried to squeeze by on the right side, only to have virtually the entire left side of his Chevrolet ripped open like a sardine can.

Hamlin threw his HANS device at Harvick’s car when the latter circled around the track — in the lead, no less —  two laps later. That will likely result in a fine and points penalty from NASCAR in the coming days.

Hamlin and Harvick had a similar instance in last year’s race at Bristol, where Hamlin wrecked Harvick.

“Last year he was just not paying attention,” Hamlin told ESPN during the caution. “I had a cut tire last year. He thinks he knows everything and probably thought he knew everything again. I just wish I had some car left so I could show him back.”

But then Hamlin did a surprising 180-degree reflection, actually trying to understand the error of Harvick’s way. Perhaps he was hoping a mea culpa might prompt NASCAR to lessen any potential penalty for throwing his head-and-neck restraint device.

“It’s a misjudgment,” Hamlin added about Harvick. “He’s a good driver. He knows better. He just made a mistake.”

On second thought, maybe Harvick’s action was exactly what he planned on doing in the first place. Can you say “payback”?

Or as they like to say, “It’s Bristol, baby.”

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Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.