Hamlin, Harvick clash on track at Dover
DOVER, Del. – Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin made contact in the opening laps of Sprint Cup Series practice on Saturday at Dover International Speedway.
Harvick ran into the back of the No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota then cut down the left side of the car.
Hamlin said barbs were exchanged between the two teams in the garage and then the action started on pit road "even before we left the track so I knew we were going to have to deal with some issues". Then tangling between the competitors ensued on the racetrack.
"It was (hard) enough to tear up the quarter panel," Hamlin said. "That's all it takes really."
No doubt Harvick was sending a message after Hamlin was overtly vocal on Friday regarding the recent penalties NASCAR delivered to Richard Childress Racing on Wednesday when Clint Bowyer's No. 33 Chevrolet's body did not meet specifications.
Hamlin questioned Bowyer's reasoning that damage to the car on the racetrack at New Hampshire affected the subsequent measurements on the car during postrace inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center. He dismissed the argument as RCR "just trying to salvage their season basically and they're going to do everything they can." Hamlin went on to say that "everyone has known it for months" that the Childress organization was cheating.
"I understand that whole appeal process that they're going to go through," Hamlin said. "I think NASCAR -- there has to be a point where it's black and white. It's no longer gray. If they let them get away with this 60-thousandths of an inch then when do you stop, when do you break it and say, 'Now we have to penalize.' There has to be a point in which they say, 'This is it, this is the tolerance, if you go past it, you're in trouble.' If they let him go, then they're just going to open up the whole field to let them do whatever they want.
"That's why some teams choose to get closer to that line than others is because there are things that happen out on the race track. There are variables that happen during the race that could make you be wrong, but you're taking that risk. If you're going to go out on the race track and take the risk of I can't afford to get one bump or my cars going to be illegal, that's a risk that ain't worth taking. That's why we don't do it with our organization."
It certainly seemed that Harvick took offense at the comments and came to not only Richard Childress Racing's defense, but to his teammate Bowyer as well.
Team owner Richard Childress did not actually witness the incident between the two drivers, or consequent altercation between his general manager Mike Dillon and Hamlin.
"You're not going to win a pissing contest with a skunk, and you don't throw rocks if you live in a glass house," Childress said. "I wouldn't even think of going after Mike Dillon cause I can tell you what, you're getting a bull if you go after him.
We're all a good, tight-knit group. We're here to win races. That's all we're here for."
NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton saw nothing curious about the contact.
"They just got into together at practice -- that's all we know. They're OK. They're fine. Sometimes you get into each other like that in practice."
Kyle Busch, who stands to benefit from teammate Hamlin's misfortunes, politely declined comment.
"I'm not getting involved."
The No. 29 team repaired the car in about 20 minutes and he returned to practice at 12:50 p.m. It took the No. 11 Fed Ex crew about five minutes longer to get its car race ready.
In Happy Hour, Hamlin jumped to the seventh fastest lap (150.319 mph) while Harvick was 15th (150.088 mph).
When asked about the altercation, Hamlin said he anticipated there could be payback coming his way this weekend after his criticism on Friday. However, he's not going to back down.
"I spoke my mind yesterday and I felt like I said a lot of truth Hamlin said. "A lot of times, that's not popular with the teams that are involved. It's something that I've always done -- to speak my mind -- and it's not always in my best interest to do that.
"When you make comments and stuff like that, it's not always going to be popular. It's not going to be popular with anyone. Those guys (RCR) have been in the sport a long time and they're automatically going to get the benefit of the doubt over someone like myself. I always learned that when someone asks me a direct question, I'll give my best and honest answer."
Although Clint Bowyer was pleasantly surprised that his teammate Harvick stood up for him, he feels Hamlin could have saved himself the headache by keeping his thoughts to himself.
"(Hamlin) probably shouldn't have run his mouth," Bowyer said. "That's what teamwork's all about. That's what got us to the point where all three cars are in the Chase and we've all done a good job of getting here.
We can't lose focus. Our cars are fast. We're here to win this race at Dover and I think one of us can do.
"At least there's some excitement in the garage, huh?