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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