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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Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.