In Texas it was Kyle Busch who took on NASCAR and lost. Sunday in Homestead-Miami it was Kevin Harvick in the same position with the same result.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]Coming off pit road lap 187 in the Ford 400, Harvick would have had the race lead and those five valuable championship points. But just moments later he was informed that NASCAR busted him for speeding when he was coming onto pit road.
Harvick began to melt on the radio, saying that NASCAR and their pit road timing and scoring made a mistake.
“That’s just them doing what they do best,” Harvick radioed in reference to NASCAR.
His No. 29 pleaded their case to NASCAR officials and lost, Harvick had restart at the rear of the field.
“I don’t think that penalty will ever settle in my stomach,” said Harvick.
“When you read me off of my pit road times of 49.6, 49.4 50.8 and then 49.6; and there’s only a handful people that get to see them, I won’t ever settle for that. I don’t know how you can be speeding when you’re on the bumper in front of you if the other guy is not speeding. So that’s about it.”
This was not just any speeding penalty.
It was a penalty that had huge implications on the Chase for the Championship and Harvick trying to win his first title. The fans immediately started screaming that NASCAR was attempting to help Jimmie Johnson win his fifth straight championship, which he went on to do.
Harvick had fans rooting him on to dethrone Johnson, they were sick of the same old story year after year. For a little bit on Sunday afternoon, it looked like he could actually do it. There were also the fans that wanted to see Richard Childress Racing win a championship for the first time since 1994. And of course, all the Dale Earnhardt Sr. fans just wanted to see his old car rise back to the top.
Other fans started to scream that NASCAR’s pit road timing and scoring malfunction, much like Carl Edwards claimed last year when he and many others were busted on pit road during a Nationwide Series race.
In the end the penalty didn’t matter because Johnson finished second to race winner Edwards as Harvick came home in third place. The final point standings list Harvick in third position and 41 markers behind Johnson.
That’s how close things were because even if Harvick had gone up and led the most laps and won the race, it wasn’t a guarantee that he was going to win the title. That didn’t stop the emotions from flowing though and feeling as though they had been done wrong.
Except, it wasn’t the only highlight of his day.
After the speeding penalty and having to work his way through the field, Harvick came across Kyle Busch and the two made contact on the frontstretch. Harvick sent the young driver spinning and out of his way.
Busch hit the wall hard and his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota then burst into flames. In his interview Busch called Harvick two-faced, saying that when they talked earlier in the day about how they were racing each other, everything was fine.
“We just got dumped by a dumb bonehead move,” Busch said. “It’s very unfortunate. I hate it for my guys. We don’t have next week to come back to. Now we have next year to come back to.
“I guess it’s that time in the race to put your bonehead cap [on] and do that. I talked to him this morning at the drivers meeting about last night [in Nationwide] and how we raced and everything was good. He’s such a two-faced guy that you can never trust that guy.”
According to Harvick however, things were a little different.
“As far as the 18 incident, he raced me like a clown all day,” he said a few times after the race. “Three-wide, on the back bumper, running into me, and I just had enough.”
When Denny Hamlin, Busch’s teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing, chimed in that Harvick’s teammates raced him the same way throughout the race Harvick simply replied, “I just parked yours.”
Take a good look at the first glimpse of a could-be rivalry in 2011.
Both Harvick and Busch are hard-nosed racers who speak their minds. Both love to win and they do it often, competing in all three series: Camping World Trucks, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series and always coming out on top.
With NASCAR’s new “Boys, have at it” policy, which got a workout this season, time will tell if these two see each other again. Will Busch spend the nearly two and a half months leading up to the 2011 Daytona 500 thinking about how his 2010 season ended?
Harvick will, but for different reasons. He’ll be reflecting what could have been in the championship battle. As for Sunday, it just looked like Kevin Harvick couldn’t win no matter what he did.