AVONDALE, Ariz. – It was a strange weekend for Kevin Harvick in more ways than one.
First came the story reported by ESPN that indicated Harvick would be leaving Richard Childress Racing following the 2013 season to join Stewart Haas Racing. Harvick has driven for Childress his entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, so if true, the report would certainly be groundbreaking in many ways.
The 2012 season has been a struggle for the entire RCR Sprint Cup program. Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard were all winless entering Sunday’s race at Phoenix Int’l Raceway and only Harvick had made the Chase for the Sprint Cup. None of the parties involved in the story reported by ESPN opted to comment over the weekend, but some dropped hints about Harvick’s future.
“I will tell you this, when we have something to tell you guys, we’ll tell you,” said Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart Saturday. “I’ve always said that. You guys can throw darts, but when we have something to tell you that’s different than what we’ve got going on, we’ll obviously tell you.”
After all the rumors and discussion about Harvick’s future, everyone seemed to forget there was a race to run Sunday at Phoenix Int’l Raceway. While Kyle Busch dominated much of the race, Harvick was in position late in the race to score his first win of the year.
On a restart with eight laps left, Harvick snatched the lead from Busch. He looked to have the race won, but then came the chaos created by Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer when they crashed together in turns three and four as the field was heading to the white flag.
NASCAR waved the caution flag, but there was confusion as to whether or not Harvick had taken the white flag before the caution flag waved. Naturally Harvick and his RCR crew felt Harvick had already taken the white flag, but NASCAR disagreed.
“We were about — best I’ve heard is about five feet (from the white flag),” Harvick said. “Someone can tell me where the caution came out. But when I came by, I saw the caution light come on, and I saw the flag before we had gotten to the start-finish line.”
Harvick took the green flag for a green-white-checkered restart and held the lead comfortably, but nearly crashed coming out of turn four on the last lap in fluid dropped by Danica Patrick. Patrick had crashed as the field was coming to the white flag, but NASCAR opted not to wave the caution flag and let the field race to the checkered flag.
While Harvick and a few others managed not to crash, others weren’t so lucky. Harvick and his team owner Richard Childress were far from happy with NASCAR following the race, even though Patrick’s crash was the result of contact from RCR driver Jeff Burton.
“I’m really disappointed in the way the race was called,” said team owner Richard Childress. “Kevin almost wrecked coming off of four. We take the white flag, she’s coming across down here, everybody saw what was happening. I just knew the caution was going to come out, and he races back around and almost wrecks and we lose a car and could have hurt a driver, so I’m just still a little upset about that last not being a caution.”
Yet, at the end of the day, it was Harvick and Richard Childress Racing in victory lane at Phoenix Int’l Raceway. No amount of rumors, drama and frustration were going to take that away from Harvick and RCR Sunday.
“We can all talk about what’s going to happen in 2014,” Harvick said. “We have 2012, we have 2013, and regardless of what happens on a business side of things, Richard Childress and myself will always be friends, good or bad, and may disagree to disagree, but we still have a lot of racing left to do and we owe it to our sponsors and our company to go out and do exactly what we did today and be men and do the best we can for everybody.”
Childress followed that up by simply saying, “Well said.”