Kevin Harvick pushes Brad Keselowski, then leaves the rest to Jeff Gordon

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After 13 years of battling in the Sprint Cup wars, Kevin Harvick knows that you have to pick your spots both on and off the racetrack.

After Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 was over, Harvick could see the maelstrom building around Brad Keselowski.

Harvick was incensed at a late conflict with Keselowski and pushed him from behind on pit road to get his attention.

When Keselowski looked back at Harvick, that gave Jeff Gordon the opening he was looking for, grabbing Keselowski by the collar of his firesuit.

And the brawl was on from that point.

Wisely, Harvick decided to back off as quickly as he approached Keselowski and let others have at it. After all, Harvick did not want to jeopardize either his runner-up finish to Jimmie Johnson, nor his still alive bid to advance to the season finale and championship-deciding race at Homestead in two weeks.

“We fought all day, put ourselves in a position to win,” Harvick said. “A lot happened late in this race and we were able to put ourselves back in the hunt.”

While Harvick can be aggressive himself, he was surprised at what Keselowski did to Gordon, cutting down a left rear tire that eventually blew out, sending Gordon into a spin and ultimately dropping from a potential win to a disappointing 29th-place finish.

Obviously everyone was racing for everything they can,” Harvick said after the race. “We had a couple cautions there at the end.

“But yeah, the 2 (Keselowski) just bulldozed the 24 (Gordon) and the 24 wrecked. 48 (Johnson) and the 2 raced hard.

“At that point, there’s no rules and you hope for the best. Then after the race all hell broke loose. I told Brad he’s gotta fight his own fight.”

Having had his own conflict with Keselowski at Charlotte (as did Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart), and then an inadvertent conflict with Matt Kenseth last week at Martinsville, Harvick can empathize with how Gordon was feeling.

“Yeah, we kinda had the same thing last week,” Harvick said. “Everything’s just so intense right now. We’re throwing caution to the wind. Everyone’s racing as hard as they can. I’m glad to be in the mix.”

Harvick said he would not have taken the chance that Keselowski did that late in the race. There’s being aggressive, but Harvick felt Keselowski stepped over that line when he made contact with Gordon.

“I couldn’t run over the 24 and the 48 like that,” Harvick said. “I think (Keselowski’s) racing as hard as he can for his team. When it gets down to that type of racing, these things will happen as they happen.

“You’re just trying to do all you can do. Obviously, it was no-holds-barred there with the 2 (Keselowski). He was in bulldoze mode.”

The new elimination format for this year’s Chase is generating much of the bitter feelings and conflict between drivers.

“It’s being played rough,” Harvick said. “It’s just one of those deals where everybody’s trying to get everything they can, and you just do what you can to do the best for your team.”

Perhaps that was what Keselowski was trying to do as well, but when you take a chance like that, there’s a price to pay.

“If you’re gonna race like that, you’re gonna have to man up,” Harvick said.

Will there be any carryover between Gordon and Keselowski next Sunday at Phoenix?

Harvick didn’t get into specifics, but there’s much to be read between the lines, when he smiled and said, “Next week’s gonna be pretty crazy.”

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Final Rolex 24 results by class

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For the third time in four years, Wayne Taylor Racing is victorious in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Kamui Kobayashi drove the team’s No. 10 Cadillac for the race’s final three hours, and won by more than a minute over the No. 77 Mazda of Oliver Jarvis. Loic Duvall finished third in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac.

Joining Kobayashi in victory lane were co-drivers, Regner van der Zande, Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe.

Here’s a look at some of the winners in the other classes:

LMP2: 

The No. 81 Dragonspeed ORECA crossed the finish line first in the five-car LMP2 class, with Ben Hanley winning by two laps over the second-place Mathiasen Motorsports entry driven by Gabriel Abury. Nic Minassian finished third in the No. 18 Era Motorsport entry.

Dragonspeed’s winning team also included co-drivers Colin Braun, Harrison Newey and Henrik Hedman.

GTLM:

For the second consecutive year, BMW RLL took the GLTM class honors, as Jesse Krohn took the checkered flag in the team’s No. 24 BMW M8 GTE. Krohn was joined by co-drivers John Edwards, Augusto Farfus and Chaz Mostert.

Porsche Teammates Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy finished second and third, respectfully.

GTD:

The Andrea Caldarelli took the class honors in the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Paul Miller Racing, finishing ahead of Marco Mapelli and Mirko Bortolotti.

Caldarelli’s co-drivers included Bryan Sellers, Corey Lewis and Madison Snow.

Click here for full race results by class

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