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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