One Chase contender accidentally victimized another on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway when on Lap 229 of the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, Matt Kenseth spun out, tagged Kevin Harvick, and sent him into the wall.
Kenseth recovered for a sixth-place finish, while Harvick finished 33rd after extensive repairs in the garage following the crash. Harvick is now last among the eight remaining Chasers at 28 points behind Kenseth, who’s in the fourth and final spot that will advance to the Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
A win at either Texas Motor Speedway or Phoenix International Raceway over the next two weeks can still send Harvick to South Florida with a shot at the title.
And considering Harvick’s strong speed all year long on 1.5-mile ovals like Texas, not to mention his superb body of work at Phoenix (five wins, including three of the track’s last four Cup races), the job is certainly doable.
But that didn’t stop Harvick from vowing that Kenseth will not emerge as the champ following today’s race.
“He won’t win this championship,” Harvick said of the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. “If we don’t, he won’t.”
Looks like Eddie Gossage and Co. in Fort Worth have something else to promote for their AAA Texas 500 next Sunday.
For his part, Kenseth took full blame for their incident, which came while Harvick was running sixth and he himself was in eighth. Harvick had started the race in 33rd position, worst among the Chasers.
“I don’t blame [Harvick] for feeling that way honestly,” Kenseth said. “It was a mistake — he was an innocent bystander and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I totally understand how he feels and I totally understand why he would say that. I totally get it.
“He knows it was a mistake too, but that doesn’t really help him. I don’t really blame him. He got taken out of the race for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Luckily for Harvick, a poor result like this that would’ve possibly destroyed his championship hopes in the previous Chase format can still be canceled out.
“The good thing about this format is you have two more weeks and two race tracks that we can win on,” he said. “Everybody was so worried about us starting in the back and we wrecked at the front. Unfortunate.”
Meanwhile, Kenseth – who’s going to be under enough pressure trying to hold on to one of those four spots in the Championship Race – may have something else to worry about.