LAS VEGAS — Kevin Harvick remains upset with Chase Elliott for costing him the win in last weekend’s Cup playoff race at Bristol, saying the finish was “manipulated.”
Harvick’s greatest frustration was with Elliott running in his line while laps down. That slowed Harvick and allowed Elliott’s teammate, Kyle Larson, to close and pass Harvick for the win with four laps left.
“Look, I never got past the point of the racing being manipulated,” Harvick said before Sunday’s playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “I honestly never even looked at the Larson move (for the win). What was it, two or three laps left? Anything goes at that particular point.
“When I look at the SMT data and see half throttle, and I hear the radio transmission (from Elliott’s radio) of ‘Where’s (Larson)? I’m going to help him out,’ I’m fine with however this whole outcome is, as long as it is officiated the same way when the issue is on the other foot.”
Elliott was upset with Harvick for contact with about 35 laps to go that cut Elliott’s tire. Elliott was forced to pit and lost any chance at a victory.
Asked about Harvick’s contention that he manipulated the finish for his teammate, Elliott said before Sunday’s race: “(He’s) entitled to his opinion and it’s great. For me, I’m looking forward to today as much as everybody tries to let last week weigh over (the race).
“I think you have to have your eyes forward. It’s up to those guys how they want to be and act. For me, I don’t have a lot say about it anymore. I kind of said my piece. I’m looking forward to tonight.”
NASCAR talked to both drivers before Sunday’s race at Las Vegas.
Harvick and Elliott talked on pit road and later in the garage before going into Elliott’s hauler for private discussions.
“I don’t know if I’v ever been that mad,” Harvick said. “That was probably the maddest I’ve ever been.”
Harvick likened talking to Elliott as speaking to son Keelan.
“It’s identical,” Harvick said. “It’s 100% the exact same scenario. They get hung up on one thing and you can’t speak to them about the broader picture about how the whole thing works. It was like speaking to a 9-year old.”
Harvick also was upset with the way Elliott races.
“When you’re right on someone’s door, the inside car is going to come up the racetrack because it’s going to get loose,” Harvick said. “If you do that repeatedly, it happens just like it does for (Elliott), you wind up with your sides of your car torn off or something torn off your car. Racing for eighth, you do preventative, defensive driving. Racing for the lead, you keep the pedal down.
“It’s a majority of the field he does it to. You can’t have it both way. You can’t say, ‘I want to race hard for eighth’ and not want to be raced hard for eighth. You can’t lay on someone’s door and expect to not to have the car come up the racetrack. You chose to put your car in that position. Those choices happen with that particular car a lot.”
Harvick later said: “I don’t care if you’re the most popular driver or not. You can’t race everybody side drafting, bouncing off their doors, and then slam into them. That stuff all comes full circle in this deal and has a funny way of teaching you.”
Asked if he was worried about being a target from another driver, Elliott said: “No. In fact, I care less about this confrontation than I ever have any other one in the past. I don’t know if that’s time or being around more. You are more focused on the right things a little more as the weeks come along. I’m looking toward to the race.”