Kevin Harvick blasts Roush for handling of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s exit

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kevin Harvick criticized Roush Fenway Racing’s move to dump Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after this season and the agency that represented Stenhouse for a “really, really, really, really bad contract.”

Harvick said his agency, KHI Management., will begin representing Stenhouse next year.

Harvick was bothered by how little warning Stenhouse had before Roush Fenway Racing informed him Wednesday morning that he would not be retained after this season.

“We’re trying to help him through a pretty bad situation and a really, really, really, really bad contract that was already written before we had been involved,” Harvick said Friday after Cup qualifying at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

“It’s unfortunate timing. Those particular business practices are tough to deal with just because of how late in the season it is and how few cars there are. Based on everything that we’ve been involved with, nothing had ever been talked about.

“When I had tough moments at (Richard Childress Racing) and things were bad, we would sit down and we would talk through things and we’d say OK this is what we need to do, this is what I need to do better, this is what I think the team needs to do better. You had real life conversations. Just to drop the hatchet in a surprise meeting with seven days to go is pretty bad business ethics in my opinion.”

Roush Fenway Racing decided to release Stenhouse after Chris Buescher became available.

“You’re blindsided by the decision,” Harvick said. “We’ve been trying to help Ricky though the situation. Spire hasn’t done anything for him all year but it’s their contract that they’re living under.”

Spire Sports + Entertainment issued a statement in response to Harvick’s comment.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is not only one of the most talented drivers we have had the opportunity to represent, he is a better person. We were fortunate enough to be with Ricky all the way from his winged sprint car days … to NASCAR and watched him grow up right in front of our eyes. 

“We went through a lot with Ricky both on and off the track and were always humbled as he approached his life with a Southern matter of factness few have.

“Ricky gave us notice that he was terminating our agreement in December 2017. A settlement was reached and he was free to sign with any agency if he so chose to do so. We were puzzled at the comments of Mr. Harvick today as neither RSJ nor Spire had any further obligations to each other. However, Ricky remained a friend to all of us and we continued to cheer him on every weekend. It goes without saying, but he knows we are always here to help in any situation but we respected his decision and his reasons behind it. 

“We were shocked to read this week that Ricky would not be driving for Roush beginning next season. Apparently, his current management team was as well. Finding out this late in the game that you have to find your client a job in a shrinking market can be a little jarring and maybe that was behind the comment. We sympathize with our friends at KHI Management, as well as to our former client who gave his heart and soul to Roush Racing and brought not only wins but championships to that organization.

“It was not easy watching him struggle in the Cup series while Roush admittedly searched for their footing, yet Ricky continued to give it his all every week. Perhaps it had run its course as we read this week, but we have no doubt that whatever team is fortunate to have Ricky as their driver will reap the benefits of having a driver that stands on the gas every time he is on any type of racetrack and has integrity and values off of it.”

Asked if he’s tried to help Stenhouse, Harvick said Friday:

“We’ve tried to be a little bit of an assistance in trying to help him forward through a process where he doesn’t have anybody. Ricky has got a great reputation in the garage, well connected. He’s the only driver at Roush Racing that has won races since Carl Edwards left. That’s the unfortunate thing. He’s a Cup winner. He’s a two-time Xfinity Series champion. It’s just a bad timing and it sucks.”

Asked if Roush Fenway Racing should have given Stenhouse more notice that his job was in jeopardy, Harvick said: “I don’t run their business. That’s not the way I would run a business.”