Harvick’s been in MWR shoes; says NASCAR must protect competitors from selves

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In 2008, Kevin Harvick wasn’t just a driver for Richard Childress Racing’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series operation. He was also a team owner in the NASCAR Camping World – then Craftsman – Truck Series.

And at Atlanta, he faced a similar dilemma as Michael Waltrip Racing did Saturday night at Richmond regarding running positions of the trucks he owned.

Ryan Newman, then moonlighting as a guest driver in the second Kevin Harvick Incorporated truck, was running first ahead of KHI’s full-season driver Ron Hornaday Jr. in second. Newman won the race, and the 10 additional points that went with it.

Hornaday lost the 2008 championship to Johnny Benson by all of seven points.

“Ryan passed Ron for the lead and I stood on the pit box as an owner, with employees and other people asking ‘What are you doing? We’re racing for a championship?’ And we wound up losing the championship over that number of points,” Harvick explained at Thursday’s NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup media advance in Chicago.

“It’s a double-edged sword. You always want what’s right for your team. But the (MWR situation) was handled very poorly by that organization as far as management, spotters, and how they did it. It was ‘throw it in your face, here’s what we’re doing, people.’ NASCAR has to protect us from ourselves.”

The fallout from the non-call to reverse positions, in Harvick’s case, led to people who quit the organization. KHI folded into Eddie Sharp Racing before 2012.

“I had employees quit because they didn’t think we were managing the team correctly, and that we let that situation happen. No one said anything from a sponsor side, but we had people quit,” Harvick said.

He also offered two stick-and-ball comparisons as it pertains to the integrity of the sport.

“I say think about it like this: is the integrity of Major League Baseball questioned when a guy leans into the batter’s box and gets hit by a pitch? From an athlete standpoint, we think like that batter. In football, Sean Payton was part of the whole bounty scheme, so the NFL decided that was the penalty based on what happened.

“I think about whatever I have to do to win as a competitor. But NASCAR and management has to protect the competitor from himself.”

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t go quite as planned, but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”