LOUDON, N.H. – With a smile and a chuckle, Joey Logano begged out.
“I’m staying out of this one,’’ Logano said to the question of if Kevin Harvick has more bark than bite.
“I don’t want to be a part of this one, let me tell you, right now. I’m just happy to be out of the drama. I’ve been in it plenty long. I want to be out of the drama and focus on my race car. Sometimes it’s best off to keep your mouth shut.’’
That’s what Harvick did when around reporters Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, declining to answer questions about his run-in with Jimmie Johnson on and off the track last weekend.
Harvick’s focus is on rebounding after a 42nd-place finish left the reigning champion in danger of seeing his title hopes end.
Harvick is in this spot after he and Johnson made contact on a restart just past the halfway mark last week. The contact caused Harvick’s left rear tire to rub the fender, but he did not pit and was not called in to pit as the smoke from the rub dissipated.
The problem persisted, though, and the tire blew three laps later, sending Harvick into the wall.
After the race, Johnson went to Harvick’s motorhome. Harvick hit Johnson in the chest with a closed fist. Harvick was held back as Johnson walked away.
Harvick has not commented publicly about that incident.
Logano played a role in the incident. He shoved Johnson’s car on the restart, forcing Johnson to the apron. Johnson hit Harvick’s car as he attempted to return to the track entering Turn 1.
Logano understands what it means to be the object of Harvick’s anger. In June 2010, Logano and Harvick raced for fifth when contact spun Logano. Afterward, Logano went to confront Harvick but was held back while Harvick was surrounded by crew members. Logano later said: “I don’t know what his deal is with me. It’s probably not his fault. His wife wears the firesuit in the family and tells him what to do.’’
Logano and Harvick also had a memorable encounter after an Xfinity race one year at Bristol Motor Speedway. Last year, Harvick needled Logano in a press conference days before they raced for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, calling Logano a “moving chicane” for how he believed Logano blocked for teammate Brad Keselowski at Talladega to help Keselowski win that race.
Logano and Harvick had to be separated on pit road after February’s Sprint Unlimited, the opening event of the season. After contact with Logano sent Harvick’s car into the wall on the penultimate lap, Harvick retaliated by slamming Logano’s car on the cool-down lap.
Even with Harvick in a difficult situation – his chances of advancing have dropped to 52 percent – Logano doesn’t expect to see much different from Harvick this week or next week at Dover International when the Chase field is cut by four to 12.
“If he can win, I expect him to be aggressive, but I would expect that before,’’ Logano said of Harvick. “The way we’ve raced the whole season up to this point was racing with nothing to lose, so we’re kind of used to that a little bit.’’