Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why I changed my opinion of the Busch/Harvick Darlington incident

When an incident happens in a NASCAR race, it's often viewed in the immediate context in which it happened.

Take, for instance, the on-track clash between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick at Darlington. If one simply looks at what happened coming through turn four and down the frontstretch, then it looks like Busch made a bee-line for Harvick's back bumper and took him out.

Without a chance to sit and look at the entirety of the race, or even that lap, it's easy to come to that conclusion. But when looking at a replay, it's often best to let the action rewind a bit further to get a deeper look.

Rewinding the Busch/Harvick incident to the green flag on that restart and the picture becomes a little more clear. Exiting turn two, Busch looks to the inside of Harvick down the backstretch. Whether he was protecting the position or giving Busch a message is unclear, but down the backstretch Harvick slammed door-to-door with Busch. As they raced through turns three and four, Clint Bowyer looked to the inside and made it three wide.

It was the second unwise decision to go three-wide by Bowyer in two days; he was involved in starting a big crash in Friday's Nationwide Series race when he was in the middle of a three-wide sandwich and he looked low on Saturday just as Busch and Harvick decided to settle things among themselves, this time taking himself out of contention for a top-ten.

As for Busch, he showed his displeasure with Harvick by hooking the 29 car in the right rear midway down the frontstretch. Harvick went for a long slide but really didn't suffer any damage other than the loss of track position.

The real fireworks were after the race. Harvick chased Busch down, and after both avoiding pit road and stopping on the frontstretch, they ended up nose-to-tail on pit road with the 29 car in front of the 18. After a few moments, Harvick unstrapped and went to the window of Busch's car and threw a punch while Busch wisely put the car in gear and drove off since Harvick's enforcers were on their way up pit road. Unfortunately, Harvick's car was in the way and Busch pushed it and it rolled into the wall.

I originally thought Busch taking a dive at Harvick was uncalled for. But looking at the entirety of that lap, Harvick seemed to have one coming. Add in him admittedly wrecking Busch in the Homestead finale last season and maybe he has more than one coming his way.

Harvick has never been one to shy away from controversy or confrontation. He got in Greg Biffle's face at Bristol in 2001 and went nose-to-nose with Ricky Rudd at Richmond in 2003. He's also gone toe-to-toe with, of all people, Joe Nemechek at Charlotte in 2005.

Harvick has announced his penalties on his Twitter feed, and he's also said "this isn't over." Obviously there is some issue Harvick has with Busch, and it could be a competitive issue or a personal issue or a combination. It's no secret the two have rubbed fenders on the track on all three series, and when Busch started his own Truck Series team he hired Rick Ren away from KHI, and that too could be a source of friction.

As a fan, I have no problems with two drivers mixing it up on the track or off. As someone who works in the sport, I still don't have a problem with it, until the crew guys get involved. There's nothing wrong with Busch vs. Harvick one-on-one, but Busch vs. Harvick and eight guys in RCR uniforms? That's a little unfair. It's interesting that NASCAR has not announced penalties for any of the crew members who crossed pit wall and ran up pit road looking for a fight.

Have at it boys. But let's keep it among the drivers, as NASCAR intended.