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Harvick's team rallied from Martinsville mayhem

November 12, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Crew chief Gil Martin acted as mediator during tense time

RELATED: Full Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage

The turmoil that rocked Richard Childress Racing at Martinsville Speedway last month could have easily spelled the end of Kevin Harvick's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title hopes.

Yet in spite of the on-track altercation between Harvick and fellow RCR driver Ty Dillon in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, and in spite of the heat-of-the-moment comments made by Harvick afterward, the No. 29 Sprint Cup Series team finds itself clinging to a shot at the championship as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup heads to Homestead for the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400.

Harvick is third in points, trailing leader Jimmie Johnson by 34 and second-place Matt Kenseth by only six. He is the series' most recent winner, capturing Sunday's AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. He has two Chase wins, as do Johnson and Kenseth.

"This deal is tough enough like it is, and obviously you don't want things like that to happen, but it did," Gil Martin, Harvick's Sprint Cup crew chief, said of the Martinsville dust-up during a teleconference Tuesday.

"But I felt like after several phone conversations that we could get right back on track. I never had the doubt about the focus of the team or Kevin once the race started. After the race was over, I felt pretty confident that we were right back on track."

Contact from Dillon sent Harvick, driving for NTS Motorsports in the race, spinning as the two battled for second place. An angry Harvick drove into Dillon while under caution; Dillon retaliated by getting into the back of Harvick's truck as the two headed to pit road.

"That's exactly the reason I'm leaving RCR because you've got those punk-ass kids coming up," Harvick said afterward.

Dillon and older brother Austin are the grandsons of team owner Richard Childress. The two have gradually advanced through lower series before making the move into NASCAR where Austin is leading the NASCAR Nationwide Series points standings and will move to Cup in 2014 while Ty is expected to move up to Nationwide competition next year.

"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."

The following morning, Harvick was apologetic, saying, "sometimes you regret the things you say for sure. Yesterday was one of them."

Martin has been with RCR since 2000, and has won races in all three major touring series. He and Harvick have been paired together, off and on, since May of 2002. With Martin atop the pit box, Harvick finished third in points in 2010 and 2011; he spent much of 2012 as director of team operations, but returned to his crew chief duties with the team in September and Harvick finished eighth in the standings.

In the aftermath of the Martinsville incident, Martin, 53, suddenly found himself trying to keep the team together and, more importantly, move forward.

"After you have something like that happen, no matter what the situation is, with two parties you've got to have somebody that's a mediator. So I tried to be a mediator," he said. " … You can't stick your head in the sand and not address it. There had to be some conversations just to get things smoothed over.

"Like it or not, in this environment there's so much stress, so much pressure, you're going to do and say some things in the heat of the moment … you're going to have people who are going to try to stoke that fire and … people who are going to try to calm the waters.

"Well, we had enough people try to stoke the fire, so all I was trying to do was calm the waters, make sure that when Kevin got in the car on Sunday he knew the support was still behind him, the company was still behind him and I think Richard (Childress) relayed the same message."

Harvick will wrap up his RCR career this weekend at Homestead, a track where he's yet to win but has often run well. In 2014, he'll join Stewart-Haas Racing.

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