News & Media

Busch, Harvick admonished after post-race feud

May 09, 2011, Joe Menzer,

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- A wild race weekend that began with one driver allegedly throwing a punch at another during a meeting in the NASCAR hauler ended with another heated meeting between a different pair of feuding drivers as Saturday night turned into early Sunday morning at Darlington Raceway.

Saturday's meeting with officials in the NASCAR hauler included drivers Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch and the respective owners of their cars -- Richard Childress and Joe Gibbs. It occurred after Harvick and Busch tangled both during Saturday's Showtime Southern 500 and afterward, and the crews of the drivers' two teams exchanged heated words and a few hard shoves in the garage area before being separated by NASCAR officials.

Immediately after the race while they were still on pit road, Harvick jumped out of his car and ran to Busch's car, where attempted to throw a punch through Busch's driver's side window. Busch responded by punching the gas to get away and punted Harvick's car out of the way, sending it smashing into an inside retaining wall.

As fate would have it, the haulers for the two teams were parked side by side in the garage. As soon as Harvick arrived on the scene -- and shortly after several members of both teams had to be separated following all the angry shouting and shoving -- Harvick charged toward Busch's hauler and challenged his entire team to a fight.

"Y'all are a bunch of [expletives]!" Harvick exclaimed.

"You are coming with us to our hauler now," a NASCAR official interjected, and off Harvick went. He later was followed by Childress, Busch and Joe Gibbs. They all met with NASCAR president Mike Helton and other NASCAR officials for about 20 minutes.

Spokesman Kerry Tharp of NASCAR said it will be determined this Tuesday if the teams and drivers will be assessed any fines and/or penalties.

"We had a discussion with them, more about what happened post-race than anything during it," Tharp said. "It's right after the race. We wanted to have both of them in there to talk about that. As our practice is, we'll get back to Concord [N.C]) and have our meeting and if there is anything more to come out of it, it will at that time. And if it doesn't, it won't."

The madness began on Lap 365 of the race that was scheduled for 367 laps but went for 370 because of the green-white-checkered finish the accident produced. Harvick, Busch and Clint Bowyer were battling for sixth place when Harvick appeared to clip Busch a little from behind, slowing Busch's car just enough that Harvick was able to get to his side door. Bowyer made it three-wide as the three cars came out of Turn 4 and entered the frontstretch.

"My choices were limited. I was either going to get punched in the face and then wait for Harvick to get back in his car, or just drive through his car and push it out of the way so I could get out of there."


Bowyer then appeared to bounce off Harvick and wrecked. And in the aftermath it appeared the Busch deliberately turned Harvick.

"It was tight racing after the restart there and Harvick was up on the top, a little bit loose, and I gave him room," Busch said. "He kind of came off the wall -- that's a bad angle, obviously -- and then lifted early to let me go into Turn 3 and I thought it was all good. Then he drives into the back of me there, so ... it made my car loose all the way through the exit, and just made a run for those two guys to get back on my inside.

"And then obviously Clint wrecked, bouncing off Harvick. It was just uncalled-for; it was unacceptable racing. I know it's the last couple of laps, but I gave him room coming off [Turn] 2 and I didn't get the room."

Harvick obviously saw it differently but opted to say little to the media after emerging from the post-race meeting.

"Obviously we were just racing hard and doing what we had to do at the end. And things happen. That's it," Harvick said.

Asked what got discussed with Busch, Joe Gibbs and NASCAR officials in the NASCAR hauler, Harvick grinned and said: "Not much."

Pressed for further comment, he declined. "I don't have anything to tell you other than not much," he said.

Asked if he was worried about possible penalties or fines from NASCAR, Harvick replied: "Not really."

Then he added: "I don't have any answers for you. I'm really excited for [race winner] Regan Smith, and I hate that you're not over there [in the media center] talking to him."

Busch had a bit more to say, actually taking the time to speak with the media before going into the meeting in the NASCAR hauler. He then elaborated further afterward.

"I hated it that we tore up a few good cars there," Busch said. "Our Doublemint Camry was so good today that we should have run up front, we should have finished up front. But we kind of got mired back in traffic there and had to fight our way back. It was a really good, clean night. I probably passed the most cars tonight -- but there was one I couldn't pass."

At that point in the interview, Joe Gibbs tugged at Busch's sleeve and told him it was time to head to the NASCAR hauler -- where earlier in the weekend driver Ryan Newman allegedly threw a punch at driver Juan Montoya during another meeting designed to defuse a potentially explosive situation.

"That's fine. Good to hash it out now. Might as well," Busch said.

Busch said later that he tried to avoid Harvick after the race, and that he had no reverse gear operational in his car.

"I don't have any answers for you. I'm really excited for [race winner] Regan Smith, and I hate that you're not over there [in the media center] talking to him."


"I was just trying to get away from the situation with Harvick and unfortunately he got to pit road before me -- so I pulled in behind him," Busch said. "[Harvick] let the 47 [car of driver Bobby Labonte] go, but I knew if I tried to turn left or right he was going to run into me or block me or something. I just stayed behind him. I was just going to sit there, not worry about it and let him cool his head for a second and let him figure out that we just needed to go back to the garage area.

"Instead of him doing that, he wanted to get out of his car, I guess, and wanted to fight. I knew that wasn't going to be a good situation. ... My choices were limited. I was either going to get punched in the face and then wait for Harvick to get back in his car, or just drive through his car and push it out of the way so I could get out of there."

Busch said he regretted the fact that he might have placed some standers-by in danger by doing so.

"Unfortunately there were some men walking down pit road. I hate it that somebody could have gotten hurt, but I was just trying to get away from it and get back to my hauler and go on with my own business," Busch said.

Tharp later described what transpired during the post-race meeting. He did not sound as if NASCAR was too upset with all the emotions on display during the Darlington race weekend.

"Let's put it this way: it was a discussion where they both aired their opinions, voiced their opinions," Tharp said. "To have them be able to do that after the race is a good thing. And to look at it again is also a good thing. It was in the heat of the moment.

"It's been a good weekend here at Darlington. There was a lot going on."

Tharp added that he does not think the drivers are getting out of hand in this era, begun last year, in which NASCAR officials essentially have told them to police themselves on the track.

"I think the drivers have done a real good job managing it. I really do," Tharp said. "There may be a time when we need to step in and talk about some things. We had a couple of those occasions this weekend -- but I think they way they have conducted themselves on the race track in general has been really good. There is a lot of competition going on. The competition has probably never been better than it is in the sport right now. Getting into the Chase [for the Sprint Cup], getting those race wins is important to all of them.

"I think the people here at Darlington [Saturday night] saw a heck of a race. We had a first-time winner in Regan Smith. You saw a lot of good cars up front running, and a lot emotions flying at the end of the race. This is a tough race. It's 501 miles and four hours on the race track, and it'll test your nerves."

Bowyer concurred with that thought.

"It's the nature of the beast," Bowyer said. "There's no room to race at the end. I knew when the caution came out [on Lap 359], all hell was going to break loose. And it did."