LOUDON, N.H. – You give what you get.
Kevin Harvick’s persistent tap, tap, tap, BUMP to the rear of Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Toyota in the closing laps of Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 cleared the way for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver to close out his sixth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season.
NASCAR’s two strongest drivers of 2018 will assuredly be racing around each other again, and soon. Will these two aggressive, never-give-an-inch drivers race each other differently moving forward?
Sunday’s runner-up indicated that’d be the case, based on the NASCAR version of the “Golden Rule.”
“Yeah,” the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said, point blank, on pit road following the race. “Harvick was using me up there for about four or five corners in a row, which is fine. I think he could have made the move work cleaner than that, but it’s all fair game. How you race is how you get raced. …
“He did that because of Chicago. I think that he had a fair game. Everybody has fair game on Kyle Busch, that’s for sure, when it comes to the fan base. That’s fine; (if) that’s how they want to race, that’s how I’ll race back.”
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The situation likely would have been a lot more heated – and might have seen potential retaliation sooner – had the bump-and-run put Busch into the fence. Expect, now, the slow burn of a sizzling rivalry has re-sparked after the two appeared to turn a corner this season; occasionally they have even been seen chatting in and around the garage area after years of a seemingly-icy relationship.
Sunday’s move by Harvick may not be enough to merit full-on retaliation, but given that these two champions will likely be racing for each of their respective second titles come November, don’t rule out more contact at some point – perhaps even in Miami.
“You do (think about it coming back to him in the future) and you worry about that stuff later,” Harvick said from Victory Lane. “It’s not like I wrecked him. It’s the same thing as Chicago. …
“I knew that I needed to take my opportunity and felt like I needed to try and get him up out of the groove and I got him up out of the groove and was able to get by.”
Harvick was able to get by with seven laps remaining, yes, but had Busch been able to get reel the No. 4 back in, fireworks would have flown.
“I don’t have a problem with it at all,” Busch’s crew chief, Adam Stevens, told NASCAR.com following the race. ” … but certainly, if we had gotten back there, we could’ve returned the favor. That is just part of short-track racing.”
Stevens’ driver, in hindsight, paused briefly before answering a question about how he would have handled the situation in the heat of the moment, had the roles been reversed.
Would he have moved Harvick?
“Now that I know what happened,” Busch said, “absolutely.”