Kevin Harvick on Talladega incident: ‘I don’t need to defend myself’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kevin Harvick said Tuesday he didn’t cause the accident that ended Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway under caution and that he doesn’t need to defend himself.

Harvick, speaking to the media for the first time since Sunday, was asked several questions about why he restarted in 10th place despite having an ill car lacking power, his contact with Trevor Bayne that triggered an 11-car crash and other drivers accusing him of intentionally wrecking Bayne to create a caution and ensure he would advance to the third round of the Chase.

“I’m not going to throw stones,’’ Harvick said during Chase media day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “I don’t believe that’s the right thing to do. I didn’t cause the first wreck (which led to the aborted attempt at a green-white-checkered finish). And I definitely don’t believe that I caused the second wreck, either.

“It’s just one of those situations that I did the best I could on the restarts to get going, and I got out of the way. I never saw (Bayne) until he was by me and doing what he was doing. It’s just one of those situations where you can’t stop. You have to continue to let it try to play out, and it really did play out. Those guys wrecked the first time and obviously the situation with the restart was what it was.’’

Asked about claiming to not causing the incident with Bayne, Harvick said: “I restarted the race, hit the gas, and I was going up and Trevor was coming down, and that was definitely the beginning point of what happened. I was trying to just get going. That was my biggest thing. I thought if I could get going, I might be involved in a situation where something else happened like it did on the first one. In our second attempt at one attempt, we had more happen.’’

Bayne said on the radio that Harvick turned him. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth – who each failed to advance to the third round – said they felt Harvick caused the crash intentionally. Tuesday, JGR teammate Carl Edwards said “I was expecting there to be some action or penalty (against Harvick) but there wasn’t.’’

Said Harvick: “No, I don’t need to defend myself.’’

NASCAR announced Tuesday morning that Harvick would not be penalized for his actions, reaffirming what Mike Helton, vice chairman, said after the race that Harvick had done nothing wrong.

Harvick’s situation intensified Sunday after Jamie McMurray’s engine blew, setting up an attempt at finishing under the green flag, Harvick radioed his team that he was underpowered.

Harvick was asked Tuesday why he pulled out of line on the aborted green-white-checkered restart but didn’t on the final restart.

“They were wrecking when I pulled up at some point during all that,’’ Harvick said. “So you just try to get going as best you can. The second one, you try to do the same thing and get going as best as you can.’’

While fans have questioned why Harvick didn’t pull to the back of the line with a car that likely wasn’t going to get up to speed, several drivers Tuesday said they would have done the same thing.

“I didn’t have an oil leak, my car was still maintaining (caution) speed,’’ Harvick said.

“I think if you’re at race 13, and you’re in a situation like that, you pull into the pits. If you’re in a cutoff race at Talladega, you have to play the restart out. You have to try. If it falls on its face and you crash or whatever the case may be, you still have a little glimmer of hope. That’s your season. You just have to hope.’’

As for Hamlin’s comments accusing him of intentionally wrecking Bayne, Harvick said he wasn’t worried about it.

“Look, Denny is a very emotional person,’’ Harvick said. “I would consider Denny a fair acquaintance. I don’t consider too many of them my friends because we get in situations like this. He’s going to stand behind what he believes in and that’s fair. I don’t think anybody can knock him for that. I’m not going to sit here and throw stones. I’ve been made at situations. I was mad at a situation with him last week.’’

NASCAR fines seven crew chiefs for lug nut violations at Las Vegas

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NASCAR announced Tuesday it has fined seven crew chiefs for lug nut violations from the Cup and Xfinity races this past weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway,

In the Cup Series, NASCAR issued fines to crew chiefs Matt McCall (Kurt Busch), Greg Erwin (Matt DiBenedetto) and Seth Barbour (John Hunter Nemechek) for having one lug nut not safe and secure on their cars. Each crew chief was fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series, NASCAR fined crew chiefs Bruce Schlicker (Ross Chastain), Dave Rogers (Riley Herbst), Ben Beshore (Harrison Burton) and Brian Wilson (Austin Cindric) for having one lug nut not safe and secure on their cars. Each crew chief was fined $5,000.

 

Chad Knaus to move off pit box for executive role at Hendrick

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Chad Knaus, whose success as a crew chief is nearly unparalleled in NASCAR, will step down from that role after this season and move into a leadership position at Hendrick Motorsports, the team announced Tuesday.

Knaus will become vice president of competition. He will oversee technical development for Hendrick Motorsports, including implantation of the Next Gen car in 2022. He also will be responsible for personnel for each of the four teams, including crew chiefs, pit crews, engineering, fabrication, assembly and other team-related staff.

Knaus won seven championships as Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief. Only Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman won more titles. Inman won eight, scoring seven with Richard Petty and one with Terry Labonte. Knaus has 82 career Cup wins. All but one came with Johnson. William Byron scored his first career Cup win in August at Daytona with Knaus as his crew chief. Byron was eliminated from the playoffs last weekend. The 49-year-old Knaus is the only crew chief to have competed in NASCAR’s postseason all 17 years.

Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus before the 2005 Coca-Cola 600. They combined to win that event four times.  (Photo by Harold Hinson/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

“When I started at Hendrick Motorsports (in 1993) working for Ray Evernham, my goal was to be a crew chief,” Knaus said in a statement from the team. “Starting at a young age, I wanted to win every race we entered and battle for every championship.

“Mr. (Rick) Hendrick has given me the chance to do exactly that, and I could not be more thankful to him. After all these years, my competitive desire has not changed at all, but now I have a family that deserves my attention. This new executive role will allow me to compete in a different way with all four of our teams while spending more time with my wife and two young children.

“I appreciate the company supporting my decision, and I’m truly excited about the challenge ahead of me to help us grow and win. I’m also looking forward to working closely with Jeff (Andrews), who I admire and have great respect for. I owe so much to Mr. Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, and I’m ready for the next chapter.”

Knaus and his wife Brooke welcomed a baby girl July 30. Vivienne Mae Knaus is the couple’s second child. Son Kipling was born in 2018.

A new crew chief for Byron will be announced at a later date.

Chad Knaus, car owner Rick Hendrick and Jimmie Johnson displaying their rings after Johnson claimed the 2013 Daytona 500. (Photo by John Harrelson/NASCAR via Getty Images)

“In life, it’s rare to witness true excellence first-hand, but that’s precisely what we’ve been treated to with Chad,” Hendrick said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is bittersweet because, in my opinion, he is the finest crew chief our sport has ever seen.

“Although we’re going to miss him atop the pit box, I’m heartened that Chad has made this decision for himself and his growing family and that he is energized about the opportunity to move us forward in a new capacity. There is no one with higher standards or a stronger passion for winning. He will continue to elevate Hendrick Motorsports and instill his championship mentality throughout the company.”

Knaus served two races as crew chief for Casey Atwood in 2000 and then did one race for Stacy Compton that season. In 2001, Knaus was paired with Compton. Knaus rejoined Hendrick Motorsports to be Johnson’s crew chief in 2002. They remained together until 2019 when Knaus moved to Byron’s team.   

Knaus will report to Andrews, 55, who has been promoted to executive vice president and general manager, effective immediately.

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus celebrate their seventh NASCAR Cup championship after winning the 2016 season finale in Miami. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Andrews joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1992 and most recently served as vice president of competition. He had held that role since 2017.

Previously, Andrews held a leadership position in the team’s engine department, including director of engine operations. In his expanded role, Andrews will oversee all competition-related departments, including powertrain, manufacturing and racing operations. He will continue to support the organization’s technical relationship with Chevrolet and remain its primary liaison with NASCAR’s competition group. Andrews reports to Hendrick Motorsports president Marshall Carlson.

“In my almost 29-year NASCAR career, I’ve been fortunate to work for just one organization,” Andrews said in a statement from the team. “Mr. Hendrick is a racer and a fierce competitor. His drive to win is contagious, and I’m grateful to have a team of like-minded people who share that passion. Racing is all I have ever done professionally. When I left my home and my family 33 years ago to pursue this dream, I never could have imagined the opportunities that have been provided by so many people, most importantly Mr. Hendrick.”

Said Hendrick in a statement: “As we look to the years ahead, Jeff and Chad are going to play significant roles in our success. They’re tremendous leaders who are respected within our organization and across the entire auto racing world. In addition, they each bring unique strengths and skillsets that will complement each other extremely well and benefit all of Hendrick Motorsports. We’re in the business of winning, and this combination is going to help us do just that.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas

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Kevin Harvick didn’t have a flashy night Sunday in Las Vegas, but it didn’t keep him from retaining the No. 1 spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

After winning the Bristol night race, Harvick finished in the top 10 in the first two stages in Vegas before placing 10th at race’s end.

Kurt Busch’s win at his home track vaulted him into the top 10 as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Las Vegas

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): In the last eight races he’s won three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): Placed fourth for his 11th top-five finish in the last 14 races.

3. Alex Bowman (Last week unranked): Finished fifth for his second top five and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races.

4. Denny Hamlin (Last week unranked): Left Vegas with a third-place finish to snap a three-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.

5. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Snapped a 46-race winless streak with his victory and advanced to the Round of 8.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week No. 3): Finished sixth after a “dismal” night. He has four consecutive top 10s.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): Finished 13th to give him two finishes outside the top 10 since he won at Richmond.

8. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Opened the Xfinity playoffs with his second consecutive win.

8. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 2): Led 73 laps, but had to settle for a 22nd-place finish in Vegas.

8. Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Finished 14th for his second straight finish outside the top 10.

Also receiving votes: Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

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Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)