It appears that not everything from the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season was left completely behind.
Of course, is it ever?
Last Saturday night was the unofficial start to the 2015 season in the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway and, though Matt Kenseth won the race, the conversation surrounded a post-race confrontation between Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano. During the waning few laps of the race, and in an effort to get to the front, Logano attempted to draft with Harvick down the backstretch and into the entrance to turn three. With an already damaged racecar, as the two entered the duel, Harvick’s car wiggled and slid up into the outside wall. It was not a surprising end to the move, considering that there is a general unwritten rule amongst drivers that there is to be no drafting in the corners to prevent such incidents, and Harvick was understandably frustrated.
On the cool-down lap as the drivers entered pit road, Harvick drove alongside Logano and ran into the right side of the No. 22 car. Logano then returned the favor by driving the right side of the nose of his car into the left side of Harvick’s. The two continued back and forth until finally coming to a rest on pit road.
Afterwards, both climbed out of their cars and immediately began walking towards one another, with crew members quickly jumping between them to presumably stop any impending flying water bottles or an aggressive grab for a firesuit sleeve.
The two appeared to just be having a heated discussion, until Logano started moving closer to Harvick, at which point a crew member of Logano’s yanked him away.
Unsurprisingly, the two did not mince words when both were interviewed by FOX Sports pit reporters just a few minutes later.
“He’s just Kevin,” Logano said. “He’s an instigator, right? It’s the same thing he is every other time he talks to someone. It’s the same old crap. It just happens all the time. It’s no big deal.”
Harvick was just as frustrated.
“He thinks he was helping, but you can’t just drive somebody straight in the corner into the fence,” said Harvick. “He kind of did the same thing to me at Talladega. I told him, ‘The karma train is coming after you.’ And it bit him right in the [butt]. … I just didn’t appreciate just getting straight drove into the wall.”
Logano would later say that he was just trying to “help” Harvick (though it’s likely the help would have ended as soon as both of them were up front) and Harvick wasn’t satisfied with the explanation considering that it didn’t end in his favor.
Oh and yes of course both of them had additional comments on Twitter. Why would you even ask?!
— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) February 15, 2015
Tried hard tonight.
Sucks the 4 got in the fence, that was not part of the plan.
Was trying to push to the front.
500 Qualifying tomorrow
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) February 15, 2015
Logano finished sixth while Harvick wound up 11th.
The incident carries over from last year after Harvick and Logano were two of the four drivers competing for the championship last November at Homestead. They didn’t get along then either, with Harvick taking swipes at Logano during the championship contenders’ press conference prior to the event and Logano throwing in a few comments of his own throughout the week leading up to the race.
This rivalry actually dates back even further still. Some longtime NASCAR fans may recall Logano’s “his wife wears the firesuit in the family” regarding Harvick’s wife, DeLana, back in 2010.
It’s not really surprising that, after five years, these two continuously seem to butt heads. After all, rivalries don’t tend to just die down especially when both drivers remain consistently competitive. However, this rivalry certainly has evolved over the years and much of it seems to involve the maturation of Logano as a true contender in the Sprint Cup Series. Prior to 2013, Logano had never finished higher in points than 16th and had only two race victories to his credit in four full years of Sprint Cup Series racing. So while he was a thorn in the side to several of his competitors, especially Harvick (at least on the Cup side), Logano wasn’t living up to his aggressive nature and his competitors called him out on it.
In the past two seasons, however, Logano has won a total of six races, made the Chase both years, and was a legitimate threat for the championship last season. In fact, in 2014 alone, Logano’s total laps led exceeded all of his combined total laps led from 2008-2013.
Suddenly, Logano is walking the walk instead of just talking the talk and living up to his aggressive nature, both on and off the track. Not one to back down when confronted by a competitor, suddenly he has no reason to. He’s genuinely a threat to other drivers’ championships and race wins. Why wouldn’t they be angry?
And whether Harvick will admit it or not, that has come with some added respect for Logano. He’s not just another car that’s in the way. The No. 22 is actually racing alongside him as a top threat during the season. The same can be said for Logano’s other competitors and whether they like him or not is not the point, a lesson that has likely been shared with Logano from teammate Brad Keselowski, who has had his own share of confrontations over the past few seasons. It seems that if there’s a confrontation or argument following a race, one of the two (if not both) are probably going to be involved.
Now, could this “me-against-the-world” position that Logano (and Keselowski, since we brought him up) keeps finding himself in come back to hurt him? Well, sure. There are certain situations throughout the year where a driver needs friends in order to be successful. Logano and Keselowski don’t have any other teammates and, as of now, are the only championship caliber Ford Racing team on the circuit.
With that said, it doesn’t seem to be hurting either of them much. Logano, Harvick, and Keselowski are all doing just fine in spite of their tendency to butt heads, and the same can be said for many others in a long list of confrontations from any of those three in the past.
However, that’s kind of the point. It’s not necessarily surprising when two (or three, or four) competitors who are constantly neck-and-neck get irritated with one another after a while, especially when they harbor very different feelings about how they should be raced. Harvick seems to abide by a “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” mentality, while Logano appears to follow the statement of “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is permission.”
Which, again, seems to work just fine for both of them. One could argue that it was Logano’s pit crew, not Logano himself that lost the championship last season. It certainly wasn’t inexperience, immaturity, or any other accusations that have been thrown at Logano in the past.
While we don’t know whether these two will once again be the favorites for the championship as the season continues (and, remember, it still hasn’t officially started yet), this likely won’t be the last time these two drivers clash. After all, they’re both tough competitors with great race teams and fast cars and they will likely find themselves in the same places once again this year.
And maybe, just maybe, there is a hint of respect beneath all the dirty looks and angry tweets.
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