Wreck causes tensions to escalate at Martinsville
MORE: Results of the Kroger 200
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- All the feel-good stories surrounding Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress Racing making the most of their final, lame-duck season together went up in a cloud of smoke Saturday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway.
An on-track confrontation between Harvick and Ty Dillon, Childress' grandson and a full-time competitor for RCR in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, boiled over in the late stages of the Kroger 200 with both drivers battering each other's trucks under caution. It escalated from there, ending with a sledgehammer being thrown from a member of the Childress crew at Harvick's Joe Dennette-owned No. 14 truck on pit road and pointed words that threaten to leave a sour taste as their 14-year partnership ends.
Harvick, tied for third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings in his last season driving RCR's No. 29 Chevrolet, didn't seem to have the farewell tour vibe that's carried his team through the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs after the fracas. Instead, it sounded like goodbye and good luck after the altercation.
"I don't care what they throw at me," Harvick said as he made a beeline from the 0.526-mile track's infield. "That's exactly the reason I'm leaving RCR because you've got those punk-ass kids coming up."
Dillon exited his No. 3 Chevrolet and had a cool-down debriefing session with Childress and team officials before speaking with the media. After he collected himself, he seemed less upset with the 22nd-place finish that hampered his championship hopes than with Harvick's rapid departure from the track and avoidance of a post-race discussion.
"After the fact, to tear up our car even worse and hit us after the fact and continue to tear up our car, it's just typical Kevin Harvick," said Dillon, who dropped from second to third in the Truck Series standings. "That's pretty much the career with RCR for him."
Childress, who was summoned to the series hauler for a consultation with officials, emerged tense and shaken, but verbally was the picture of restraint. When asked if Harvick would be in the team's Sprint Cup entry Sunday at Martinsville, Childress said "we'll still roll." There are four Sprint Cup races left on the schedule for the driver-owner pairing, which began on the NASCAR Nationwide Series level in the 2000 season, before Harvick joins Stewart-Haas Racing next year.
"I'm disappointed. Very disappointed -- that's all I can say," Childress said after leaving the series hauler. "I've got too much class to say what I really want to say. When I say it, I'll say it to his face."
NASCAR officials said they were reviewing the incident.
The dust-up began with 13 laps remaining in the 200-lap event, when Dillon applied pressure to Harvick in a harried contest for second place behind eventual race winner Darrell Wallace Jr.
Dillon gave Harvick's truck a tap entering the first turn to move his rival out of the groove, then stuck his fender down low. Neither driver made it out of the corner pointed straight as the two came together, catching series points leader Matt Crafton -- running a close fourth at the time -- in the mess.
After the two trucks righted each other, Harvick clanged his truck broadside across Dillon's No. 3 on the backstretch. Dillon retaliated by driving into the back of Harvick's No. 14 all through the third and fourth turn. Once the two trucks came down pit road, Harvick stopped in front of Dillon's pit box, where the RCR crew confronted him with a brightly colored sledgehammer aimed toward Harvick's truck. Harvick eventually pulled away, then parked before the race's conclusion to exit the speedway, assailing his soon-to-be-former team on camera before leaving.
"The 3 just dumped me," Harvick said. "Exactly the reason why I'm leaving RCR because you've got those kids coming up and they've got no respect for what they do in this sport and they've had everything fed to them with a spoon. So, I cut him slack all day and, you know, he just dive-bombs me in there, dumps me. I've got to thank all these (race sponsor) Anderson Syrup guys for everything that they do. It's a shame you've got to get taken out by some rich kid like that."
Dillon claimed that Harvick hit the brakes in an effort to prompt contact or stall his momentum, and that his actions made Crafton helpless to avoid contact. Crafton continued after makeshift repairs to finish 17th, losing just six points from his commanding edge in the standings.
Dillon wound up as the last driver on the lead lap, falling one position to third in the standings, now 61 points out of the lead with three races left in the season.
"That stunk -- the wreck part -- but to tear up a truck after the race and totally take us out of the race and not to stick around after the race and walk off and not even want to say anything to me. I’m sure he’s tweeting something now about it. So, he can't even face me after," Dillon said. "I'm pretty disappointed in the things that just went down. I used to look up to that guy but I guess he doesn't understand the circumstances of what’s going on.
"I understand it's tough racing down there in (turns) one and two at Martinsville. I know we wrecked, but to tear up a truck after the race and act like a punk on the track and on pit road and stop on pit road on my pit stall when my guys were coming out, that was pretty ridiculous. I'm not happy with him. And for him not to stick around, that's pretty sad, too."