At least four of Kevin Harvick‘s competitors believe the 2014 Sprint Cup champion intentionally caused the multicar wreck Sunday that effectively ended the CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
The wreck began at the start-finish line that began with Harvick’s car making a right turn into Trevor Bayne, which caused the Roush Fenway Racing driver to spin and collect several cars behind him. Harvick drove away unscathed.
“That’s a crappy way for Harvick to have to get in the Chase is to wreck somebody – what I believe to be on purpose – maybe it wasn’t,” Bayne said. “The restart before that he had engine problems and got out of the way. I think he realized if the caution came out he was gonna be fine, so I go by and get hooked in the left-rear. Harvick is a really good driver. I think he knows the limits of his car and where it’s at, so that’s why I think it was intentional.”
Harvick’s chances of advancing to the third round seemed bleak if his No. 4 Chevrolet wasn’t able to run under full power for the last two laps of the race.
Harvick said his car “wasn’t running really well on the restarts. Then at the end, I was trying to get out of the way. I don’t know if I clipped (Bayne) or if he came across as I was coming up.
“It was one of those days where everything went well until the very end until the bottom fell out on those lap couple of restarts when it cooled off. It has a broken exhaust pipe or something.”
NASCAR released the race’s unofficial results at shortly after 7 p.m. (more than an hour after the race), putting Harvick in 15th place and in the final spot for the Chase. Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman were eliminated from Chase contention.
In an interview with NBCSN, Matt Kenseth was the first to imply Harvick intentionally wrecked Bayne.
“It was a pretty tough ending,” Kenseth said. “(Harvick) knew he was blowing up, and he told everyone he would stay in his lane. Well, he did that so someone would get outside him, and he could cause the wreck to finish the race.
“It’s disappointing. It wasn’t really racing. It was just a lot of games going on. You can hardly blame a guy for doing it. He’s going to make it if he does that and wrecks people going slow, or he’s not going to make it if it goes green for a few laps. I don’t know. It feels like we kind of lost control in this situation. I hope we get back to racing next week with everyone going fast and trying to win.”
Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin also suggested that Harvick hit Bayne’s No. 6 Ford on purpose, triggering the crash.
“(Harvick) could only run about 30 mph,” said Hamlin, whose car fell off the lead lap because of roof flap problems. “He saw people coming. He knew he was going to be 30th. Last car on the lead lap. He caused a wreck.
“That’s neither here nor there. It was self-inflicted day. Took us four times to get our roof fixed, and unfortunate. I feel I’ve done everything I possibly can to advance. One bad race in a three-race sason obviously takes you out. It’s frustrating. I can’t put anything positive on it now.”
Hamlin also tweeted about Harvick and the race later.
Both drivers were involved in the accident.
NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton said the sanctioning body had determined no immediate wrongdoing by Harvick but didn’t rule out possible future sanctions. Helton said other teams had expressed misgivings about Harvick’s actions.
Front Row Motorsports driver David Gilliand also indicated his displeasure with Harvick on Twitter.