Kevin Harvick’s crew chief brushes aside tire accusations: ‘It’s turned into a joke. Honestly, I’m flattered. I love it.’

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – With his championship team seemingly in the crosshairs of a NASCAR investigation into tire tampering, Rodney Childers alternately bristled and scoffed at the rumors Friday at Martinsville Speedway.

“I started racing when I was 12 years old, (and) people accused me of stuff,” the crew chief for Kevin Harvick said. “They accused me of stuff when I was 15 years old. They accused me of stuff when I was 20 years old. They’re still accusing me of stuff.”

No one has pointed the finger publicly at illegal wrongdoing during Harvick’s impressive streak of eight consecutive top-two finishes (dating to the final four races of his 2014 title campaign). Behind the scenes, though, competitors have grumbled about the source of Harvick’s speed.

But Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet is the only team to have its tires seized by NASCAR after the past two Sprint Cup races. NASCAR warned teams about the potential for severe penalties Friday morning at Martinsville in the wake of sending some tires for a third-party investigation this week.

Childers, who joined Stewart-Haas Racing with Harvick last season, said it’s nothing unfamiliar, though, for his team.

“I don’t think everybody realizes that they’ve taken our tires 17 times in the last 18 months,” he said. “Every time we finish first or second, our car goes back to the R&D Center with the tires we won the race on. NASCAR’s doing their jobs, and everybody else is making a big deal about it, right?”

Childers said NASCAR also had examined the team’s tires many times during races last season.

“Nobody ever talked about it,” he said. “I’m starting to get a little bit ill about it. It’s turned into a joke. Honestly, I’m flattered. I love it.”

Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon said Friday he believes that teams have found ways to “bleed” their tires, which maintains optimum air pressure during a green-flag run and keeps speeds consistent.

The situation is reminiscent of Gordon’s 1998 championship season. On the way to tying a modern-era record with 13 victories, Gordon’s tires were confiscated after an August 1998 win at Loudon, N.H., and sent for independent testing that found nothing.

“We weren’t ever doing anything like that in 1998,” Gordon said Friday. “Maybe people were speculating what we were doing, or if (crew chief) Ray (Evernham) was doing it, he never told me. But after all these years, I think I would have known about that. But I’ve heard about a lot of things with valve caps and poking holes in tires for years.”

Childers said he welcomed the scrutiny of being a successful team.

“I don’t know how Ray Evernham reacted back in the day, but that’s (NASCAR’s) job,” Childers said. “If you’ve got a car that’s on a streak like the 4 car’s been and they’ve got eight top-twos in a row, nobody’s done that since when there was 2.5 cars on the lead lap at the end of each race, it’s a big damn deal, you know? I don’t blame them at all. I’m 100% percent on their side. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to keep a level playing field.

“The only thing I don’t like is when it stirs up a bunch of drama and because there’s no need for it. But it’s part of it. You don’t want the drama surrounding your team. You want to keep them focused on what you’re doing. All in all, they’re doing their jobs.”

Childers playfully delivered a message to any competition that believes he and Harvick are bending the rules.

“They also need to look at qualifying because bleeding your tires in qualifying for one lap don’t help,” Childers said. “We beat ’em every week, so they better get working on their cars a little bit, I’d say.”

Harvick, who has started on the front row of three of five races this year, also addressed the tire controversy on Twitter.

NASCAR Awards: Scene on the red carpet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community gathered at the Music City Center to commemorate the 2022 season and celebrate Joey Logano‘s second Cup title.

The event can be seen at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Here is a look at the scene on the red carpet before Thursday night’s NASCAR Awards:

Joey Logano and Brittany Logano (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ryan Blaney and Gianna Tulio (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle and Samantha Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Elliott (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Alex Bowman and Crystal Marsh (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Tyler Reddick and Alexa De Leon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Denny Hamlin and Jordan Fish (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Daniel Suarez and Julia Piquet (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Briscoe and Marissa Briscoe (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Christopher Bell and Morgan Bell (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Dillon and Whitney Dillon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle Larson (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

William Byron and Erin Blaney (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ross Chastain and Erika Turner (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Cindric (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kurt Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Harrison Burton and Jenna Petty(Photo: Dustin Long)
Mario Andretti (Photo: Dustin Long)

Chase Elliott wins NMPA Most Popular Driver Award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott won his fifth consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Elliott is one of only five drivers to win the award since 1984.

Bill Elliott won it from 1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002. Dale Earnhardt won the award posthumously in 2001. Darrell Waltrip won it in 1989-90. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won it from 2003-17. Chase Elliott has won it every year since.

Noah Gragson was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Xfinity Series. Hailie Deegan was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

Kevin Harvick to make decision on future by Daytona in February

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick says he’ll know by Daytona in February his plans beyond 2023.

Harvick’s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing ends after the upcoming season. 

Harvick said Thursday before the NASCAR Awards that “it could go either way at this particular point” on what he’ll do, but he affirmed that “going into Daytona, I’ll know what I’m going to do.”

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 19. Harvick anticipates making an announcement by then.

“We’re at a point where everybody needs to know what’s going on,” Harvick said. “There’s too many tentacles to everything that happens. Whether it’s the race team, driver management company, every element needs to know. It’s not fair to anybody to have to start the season not knowing.”

Harvick turns 47 on Dec. 8. Next season will be his 23rd in Cup. His debut came a week after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick was selected by car owner Richard Childress to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

Harvick has gone to win the 2014 Cup championship and 60 races at Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s tied with Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time Cup wins list.

Harvick won two races last season. His victory last August at Michigan snapped a 65-race winless streak. He followed that by winning the next weekend at Richmond. 

Harvick has won at least two races in nine of the past 10 seasons. He has scored 41 of his 60 Cup wins since he turned 37 years old.

“Kevin, I think, is probably the No. 1 leader of the drivers, as he should be,” two-time Cup champion Joey Logano said Thursday. “He’s been around the longest. He’s very accomplished. He’s very smart. He’s been through the ups and downs. He’s lived it. There’s wisdom in experience. It’s great to hear his opinion on where we are as a sport.”

Harvick’s business interests include a management company that represents Cup drivers Ryan Preece, Harrison Burton and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., along with other athletes. Harvick also has worked as a broadcaster on NASCAR Xfinity races for Fox Sports, earning positive reviews. 

Harvick’s son Keelan, who is 10 years old, races and has competed in karting in Europe. 

“He’s got one more race in Italy … and then we’ll start all over again,” Harvick said of his son.

Harvick went overseas after the season finale at Phoenix to watch Keelan race.

“I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since he’s been making these trips,” Harvick said. “I think it’s important to have that culturing aspect of life to be comfortable to do things like that anywhere in the world.”

The NASCAR Awards program airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 3 on Peacock. To sign up for Peacock, go here.

BJ McLeod, Live Fast team move to Chevrolet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Driver/owner BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports will race in Chevrolets beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Live Fast has been a Ford team.

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Live Fast is owned by McLeod, Matt Tifft and Joe Falk. Jessica McLeod, BJ’s wife, is the team’s chief operating officer.

“Our team is excited to make this transition to Chevrolet,” BJ McLeod said in a statement released by the team. “Chevrolet Camaros have proven great success on the track, and Live Fast Motorsports is looking forward to becoming a part of this advance.”

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The team will use ECR engines.

McLeod had one top-10 finish in 29 starts in the Cup Series last season.