George Diaz: Kevin Harvick disrespects Earnhardt legacy, NASCAR history with shots at Junior – La Crosse Tribune
NASCAR is in scramble mode these days, dealing with declines in attendance and TV ratings, sponsors dropping out, and veteran drivers getting the heave-ho to get rid of fat contracts.
We now add a battle to protect a NASCAR legacy.
Kevin Harvick lashed out at Dale Earnhardt Jr. last week for having the gall to be Mr. Popularity. Harvick connected the dots to some of NASCAR’s problems, alluding to the fact that Earnhardt hasn’t been successful enough while unfairly drawing attention from other drivers.
“I believe that Dale Jr. has had a big part in kind of stunting the growth of NASCAR because he’s got these legions of fans, and this huge outreach of being able to reach different places that none of us have the possibility to reach,” Harvick said, “but he’s won nine races in 10 years at Hendrick Motorsports.”
Ouch. Perhaps Mr. Harvick has a case of restrictor-plate envy.
Or perhaps he is simply the whiny jealous kind.
Your call, kids.
Earnhardt Jr. took the punch politely, and decided not to counter.
“Some of those comments were hurtful,” he said. “But I still respect him as a champion and an ambassador for the sport, and that’s just the way it is, I guess. I hate that that’s how he feels.”
Whatever his reasons, Harvick went way out of bounds here. Take the kid out of the conversation for a minute. Think about the dad.
Way back when, in a seismic and tragic turn of events, Dale Earnhardt died on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. After many tears, soul-searching and a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels, team owner Richard Childress entrusted the keys to the car to a rising young driver named Kevin Harvick.
He was only 25 at the time when fate tapped him on the shoulder, and Childress asked him to take Earnhardt’s seat in Rockingham the week after the accident.
“We all knew it and we talked about it, and I told him it was going to change his life when he got into that car at Rockingham,” Childress said on the 10-year anniversary of the tragedy. “I don’t know of many veterans or many people who could have stepped in that car and been mentally capable of doing what he did as a young man.”
Harvick is a veteran now and should know better than to throw incendiary fire at NASCAR history and reverence.
“It is totally unfair,” said Dale Jarrett, a former Cup champ and now an analyst with NBC Sports. “Dale Jr. did not come into the sport wanting the sport on his shoulders. He came in wanting to be a competitor, just like everyone else. It doesn’t matter if your name is Petty, Jarrett or Earnhardt.
“Dale Jr. has been given a big platform that not a lot of others have been given. He has done a tremendous job of helping this sport through a lot of difficult times. He has been the man to stand up — and take responsibility — in situations that very few of us have ever had to go through.”
Exactly. Dale Jr. never asked for any of this. Neither did Harvick. They are in this together.
And both seemed to handle their responsibilities as good stewards of the sport very well.
KESELOWSKI VS. BUSCH
Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch never disappoint. Just when you think your day is going bad, there they are, blowing up each other in person or on social media. It’s quite the treat to rubber-neck and enjoy the ride.
Keselowski and his Ford started on the pole last weekend in Michigan, although he downplayed his speedy run, accusing the Toyota teams of not bringing their best equipment to the track.
The strategy to “kind of tune it down” is intentional, Keselowski suggested, because it would fool NASCAR into not changing any rules to ensure manufacturer parity.
“We’ve seen the last two or three weeks that the Toyota cars are pretty dominant,” Keselowski said. “We had a strong suspicion that those guys would kind of tune it down this weekend, so (as) not to post a pretty big number in inspection.”
Oh, my. Please duck, Brad.
“Brad’s a (expletive) moron,” Busch told ESPN.com. “We don’t just turn it down. We actually have a new engine package here this week. He’s a moron.”