““I wouldn’t consider us behind the Gibbs cars. I think we’re going to pound them into the ground. That’s what I think. Hopefully they can beat themselves.” – Kevin Harvick. Did you catch that little quote in the NBC Sports piece by Dustin Long? Does anybody doubt “Happy” means it? Let’s just say that if he can’t wheel the 4 car past his competition, he won’t hesitate to make use of the “chrome horn” to get the job done. Looking over this highly combustible mix of characters that comprises the 2015 NASCAR Chase, it’s not going out very far on a fragile limb to say the champ is ready to rumble, and he has more than a few who will be his huckleberry.
Just looking at Harvick’s history, he has some with Joey Logano. In both his wins at Watkins Glen and Bristol, Logano ran from his nemesis like frightened jackrabbit from a hunting hound. Crew chief Todd Gordon noted that Harvick “doesn’t like us” and there’s nothing that suggests that the champion has softened any towards the one-time wunderkind. One can argue that Logano’s recent success has only stoked the fires of competition a little bit hotter.
It doesn’t end with Logano. Go back a few years, and you find a little history between Harvick and Carl Edwards. Some fans called “‘roid rage” NASCAR’s physical fitness poster boy put his hand around Harvick’s throat. How about Harvick and Kyle Busch? Remember that post-race pit road incident a few years back? Let’s also not forget who shoved Brad Keselowski into his little maelstrom with Jeff Gordon at Texas.
Before we sound like we’re hating on Harvick, there’s plenty more where that came from. Both the aforementioned Keselowski and Busch have their share past scrapes. Really, Harvick had little issue with the 2012 champion, he simply poured gasoline on an already growing blaze. Keselowski’s real issue has to do with Jeff Gordon, and not only that, he drew a surprise attack from the ordinarily cool as a cucumber Matt Kenseth. Go back further into Keselowski’s career, and memories of his one-time feud with Edwards come up, though in the court of public opinion, a large number of fans put that on Cousin Carl.
Where there’s a Busch, there’s usually a fire. There’s two of them once again the NASCAR Chase for the championship. Kyle’s kept a pretty low profile. Some believe his wife has calmed him down. It may just really be that Busch the younger has had little reason for banging bumpers. Would “Bad Kyle” rear his head if the occasion warranted? Ha! What do you think?
As for Busch the elder, life is a little sunnier than when the season started. The whole mess with his ex-girlfriend is behind him, and now Kurt Busch is engaged to another. On the other hand, Busch of the 41 car has endured a bit of a roller coaster ride, and like anyone coming off a bumpy ride, you’re not always your best self.
Race car drivers- whether they be Saturday night strokers or internationally-renown superstars- are volatile lot anyway. You have to be an adrenaline junkie to do what they do, and in the pressurized, dangerous environment of “playoff” racing, there needs to be a release for some of it, thus you have what we sometimes see post-race or even on the track.
Even drivers with less controversial pasts aren’t adverse to mixing it up. Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin aren’t afraid to let you know if they don’t appreciate how you’ve raced them. Then there’s clint Bowyer- remember the deal with Jeff Gordon? There are others in the field who won’t mind moving you out of the way if need be, even if the “bump and run” is more like a “touch and excuse me” a la Matt Kenseth as one track announcer told me once.
The racing itself during the NASCAR chase may not always be scintillating, but you can be sure that if you want some hard charging and emotion, you will get it. This cast is set to deliver- for better or for worse.