In discussions with both drivers, NASCAR has made it clear they’ve “had enough”
Feuds are nothing new in NASCAR. They also fuel engagement in the sport. However, each one has been generally handled differently by the sanctioning body due to a wide range of factors.
Several weeks ago, Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick made contact while battling for the lead. Harvick got loose under Elliott, chased it up the banking and into the No. 9 machine.
Elliott pitted under green for fresh tires. He re-entered the track 3 laps down. He passed race leader Harvick with ease, placing Elliott just two laps down.
Elliott stated over the radio, “Where’s Larson, I’ll help him out.”
However, Elliott didn’t drive away. Instead, he hung out just a car length ahead of the leader, purposefully using less throttle and keeping Harvick in dirty air.
For the next 30 laps, Harvick wore out his tires. Kyle Larson, teammate to Elliott ran down Harvick. With less than 5 to go, Larson slid Harvick for the position and went on to grab the win.
Elliott and Harvick each climbed from their cars an engaged in a shoving match. The two drivers also had a private conversation in the No. 9 hauler.
After Bristol, Harvick made it clear that the feud wasn’t over. He also noted that conversations with Elliott were similar to his 9-year-old son.
Toward the end of stage two, Elliott drove deep under braking into turn one to take 2nd away from Harvick. Harvick responded with a shot to the rear bumper of Elliott.
Just a few laps later, Harvick was back on the bumper of Elliott. This time, he gassed it up through the infield section of the Charlotte ROVAL and turned Elliott.
Elliott slammed the wall. The rear decklid was knocked out and he was under the playoff cutline.
The No. 9 team made temporary preparations for climbing back above the cutline. It was to wreck the No. 4 car, bump him out and put Elliott back above the cutline.
With the car repaired, Elliott began to drive through the field. He climbed inside the top 15.
With Harvick just ahead, both drivers drove it deep into turn one and each locked up the front tires. However, Harvick locked his up much worse, he slid straight through turn one and slammed the wall.
Harvick was eliminated from the race and the playoffs. Elliott was able to finish well enough to advance into the Round of 8.
When asked after the race if the contact was deliberate, Harvick responded, “Do you remember Bristol?”
NASCAR stated they would have another talk with both drivers. Now, we’re hearing how that conversation went…
Alan Gustafson comments
“What I can say to you, is I think, in my opinion, what NASCAR does is they take the stance that they try to allow the competitors to compete,” No. 9 crew chief Alan Gustafson stated via Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
“They want the competitors to be able to determine the outcome of the races, let the competitors take care of it on their own. I think that’s the way it should be.”
“The message that NASCAR has delivered is ‘They tried to do the best job they could do’ in allowing it to happen. And, ‘they’re over it.’ “
“So, whatever way you want to look at it from their. I commend them for allowing us to race but I think they’ve had enough. They made that pretty clear.”
Is the No. 9 team worried about more on-track conflicts with the No. 4?
“To be honest, I was never worried. There’s nothing I can do.”
“I can’t control what anybody does on the track besides the No. 9. My focus and the team’s focus has always been, ‘What can we do to be better?’ “
“For me, concern over what anybody else could potentially do is just wasting time. Taking away from the time that you could put into doing something that could actually benefit your performance.”
Gustafson added, “I can’t control what anybody does, much less Kevin. So, I’m not going to waste any time, it’s just pointless.”