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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