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Kevin Harvick riled at Tony Stewart portrayal in Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy

Aug 26, 2014, 10:41 PM EDT

JOLIET, Ill. – There’s no doubt Kevin Harvick wears his emotions on his sleeve.

Not only is he one of the most competitive drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, he’s also one of the fieriest. He’s not afraid to call out another driver, nor does he back down when challenged.

Harvick has oftentimes been compared to old school drivers like Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and others who, if they couldn’t settle a disagreement on the racetrack, they’d find other ways to settle it in the pits or in the garage area with their mouths or, if it comes to it, their fists.

It’s with that same old school persona that when Harvick is asked a straight question, more often than not, he’s going to give you a straight answer back – political correctness be damned.

When asked Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway how one of his closest friends, not to mention his boss, Tony Stewart, is doing in light of the Aug. 9 dirt track tragedy that claimed the life of young Kevin Ward Jr., Harvick was upfront and to the point.

[ RELATED: When — or will? — Tony Stewart race again? ]

Harvick has respected Stewart’s privacy and space and, while not having talked to him directly since the tragic accident between Stewart and Ward, has expressed his concern and thoughts to Stewart through intermediaries.

But Harvick still had plenty to say about how Stewart has been perceived by many, vilified by some and how others have played judge, jury and executioner, even without waiting for the results of the ongoing police investigation or knowing the true facts of what happened that fateful Saturday evening at a dirt track in upstate New York.

“I think, for me, the most frustrating part was just the fact, just the perception from a lot of unknowledgeable people about our sport in general and the perception that was given to Tony in the accident,” Harvick said.

“Obviously, it was a very tragic accident; you have someone who’s dead. But on the other side of that fence, you have somebody that I know for a fact, not (just) in my heart but I know for a fact that he’s not just going to run somebody over on purpose and say ‘this is how I’m going to handle this.'”

Harvick was at Chicagoland Speedway both Monday and Tuesday as part of a NASCAR-sanctioned official multi-team test to prepare for the opening race of the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup in less than three weeks.

[ RELATED: Jeff Gordon on Tony Stewart: “Wish I could pat him on the back, give him a hug, talk to him ]

Harvick took the media — especially those who do not cover NASCAR on a regular basis (or have never covered motorsports as a whole) — to task for sensationalized reporting and portraying opinion that readers or viewers oftentimes interpret as fact.

“I think as you look at that and you see all the stories that have come out and all the things that they’ve put in that mix with the highlight reels of a pit crew member (being hit) on a pit stop or (a driver) getting out and throwing your helmet or whatever the case may be, they can make that highlight reel for just about every one of us that have been in this garage,” Harvick said. “At some point in time, you’ve probably hit a crew member, you’ve probably got mad and thrown something, or been in an altercation or blown up or whatever the case may be.

“But they can make that highlight reel out of everybody. It’s really just when you get into these outlets that are just looking for the controversial topic, it’s just not been right.

“That part frustrates me because I know Tony as a person. That’s been the hardest part for me to deal with.”

And while Harvick is one of the most vocal and open-speaking drivers in the Sprint Cup garage, the Stewart-Ward incident and some of the sensationalized reporting and outspoken opinions of those who don’t even regularly cover NASCAR has even forced him since then to be more cautious with what he says and who he says it to.

“You guys know the media’s never been my favorite thing to deal with,” Harvick said with a laugh, before growing serious once again.

“There’s a group of people that I feel like are fair to this sport, and it used to be the media was trying to help the sport grow,” he said. “But you get outside of that core group of media, and most of the time it’s about making a story that might cause some controversy and might stir things up so that somebody will click on their story.

“(As a driver) you just have to be very protective about what you say, what you do and how you do things, just because of how it can be spun into something that’s a lot different than what you really want to say.

“There’s just certain topics that you have to be careful with, and most everything else you can speak your mind. A lot of times, it’s better to speak than it is to not speak, just for the fact somebody can spin something in ways that they want to spin it.”

[ RELATED: Kevin Ward Jr. remembered in hometown, father lashes out at Tony Stewart ]

That’s why Harvick has both been somewhat subdued but also more straightforward in how he responds to media questions since the Stewart/Ward tragedy.

“If you speak on it and speak what you think about it and think about what you say, but still get across exactly what you mean, then your perception is taken, and I think that’s important,” he said. “It’s important to speak and speak about what you think is right and wrong because that’s your opinion.”

Harvick knows he’ll talk to Stewart when the latter feels the time is right. And it won’t just be Harvick; there’s plenty of drivers, fellow team owners and even NASCAR officials that have yet to talk to Stewart, giving him all the time and space he needs, just like Harvick has done.

But Harvick did say that what happened to Stewart has had a profound impact upon himself and other drivers, particularly those who dabble in other forms of motorsports in their spare time, much like the way Stewart likes racing sprint cars away from NASCAR. Unfortunately, in light of the circumstances of what happened to Ward, Stewart may very well have raced his last sprint car race.

“That’s one reason why we don’t do that stuff anymore because sometimes when you go to those racetracks, you kind of wind up with a target on your back,” Harvick said. “That’s just unwarranted but it’s also the target on your back that everybody wants to make a name for themselves.

“Whoever that guy (big-name racer) is that’s there running those races is the guy they want to make that name with.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

  1. dagsboro2 - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    All the talk about Stewart being a hothead and throwing helmets etc. is usually a result of him being spun out and is mad at the other driver just like Ward was doing. In this case Stewart had no reason to be mad as he was the guy in this instance who the helmet would be getting thrown at. Many of you aren’t making much sense.

    • iroczz - Aug 27, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      Actually Kevin Ward did throw his helmet at Tony out of frustration from hitting the wall. The problem is that he forgot to take his head out of it first.

  2. dalejunebugfan - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    What Harvick doesn’t understand or care to understand is the fact the media is reporting on Stewart killing 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. as a felony, 2nd Degree Murder, criminal investigation, which is exactly what it is.

    #Yappy Harvick thinks NASCAR media is supposed to exclusively write Happy Horse Manure stories about him and Dale.

    If anything the NASCAR media has been way to soft and easy on Stewart.

    We would like to see more criminal- experienced media, asking tough, hard-edged questions of Stewart’s legal team and sponsors, holding Stewart’s feet to the fire for his responsibility in the killing death of Kevin Ward Jr.

    • azrx - Aug 27, 2014 at 5:22 PM

      How has the media been soft of Stewart? The media was ignorant of the facts and clearly so are you. There are no facts to support any criminal negligence on Tony’s part. The only video out there doesn’t even show contact between the two vehicles that caused ward to crash into the outside wall in the first place. The video clearly shows ward jr. taking a higher line into the corner and sliding into the outside wall.

    • iroczz - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:17 PM

      You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own set of facts. Those facts clearly show that this is not, and has never been a criminal investigation. Furthermore, there is no evidence whatsoever that would indicate there will be anything to charge. If anything, the Ward family can bring a civil suit against him, but the percentage of fault will be 99.99% on Kevin.

    • nosmiley - Aug 28, 2014 at 2:21 AM

      You say “we would like to see more criminal-experienced media. Who is this “WE” you are speaking about ? Do you have mice in your pockets ?
      You’re not speaking for me, and judging from the votes, your thumbs down is running at 6oo, to 101 that give you a thumbs up. Are you an attorney looking for a case ??
      How do you know he’s committed a felony or anything else. You’ve set yourself up as judge and jury, already professing to know more than the folks assigned to investigate the accident.
      Might want to try another blog.
      I don’t support either one of them, but I think I’m smart enough to know not to play in traffic. That guy was out there running around waving his arms like he was a member of the track crew, trying to slow everyone down because of an accident out of view. Poor lighting , Black coveralls with a stripe. Accident waiting to happen.

  3. dalejunebugfan - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    One point we all agree on:

    Stewart’s career as a top-line, threat-to-win-every-race, NASCAR driver is history.

    No way in hell can Stewart (if he ever races again, anywhere) ever go back to being the loud mouthed, helmet throwing, whiny, cry baby, temper tantrum, hot head we all loved to hate.

    If Stewart’s gonna turn into another Joe Nemechek or Morgan Sheppard better to retire with what dignity he has remaining.

    • iroczz - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:20 PM

      I don’t know of anybody that would even consider agreeing with that.

  4. ncnativeraleigh - Aug 27, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    Bottom line Stewart’s silence since “business as usual” yuck up is deafening. Regardless, there sure was a whole lot of open track at the bottom of turn 1 and 2 below where Stewart was during the caution. I wonder why such an experienced driver such as Stewart did not utilize it. Will be very interesting to hear Stewart’s perspective and account from the drivers seat.

    • dalejunebugfan - Aug 27, 2014 at 3:52 PM

      Great point!

      At Watkins Glen, when Stewart told Zipadeli to tell the media “business as usual” less than 9 hours after Stewart had killed 20 year-old Kevin Ward Jr., Stewart dug his own grave.

      The unbelievable insensitivity, hatred and arrogance of that statement told us everything we needed to know about Stewart’s egotistical, antisocial, perverse behaviors.

      If Harvick wants to go Yappin’ his gums about media portrayals he needs to point his finger at Stewart and Zipadeli for creating the negativity with their “business as usual” statement.

      • azrx - Aug 27, 2014 at 5:33 PM

        Another ignorant assumption. Have either of you ever raced a sprint car on a dirt track? Using your ignornat logic why did the driver right in front of Tony barely miss Ward? Tony was at most 1-2 seconds behind that driver. Again, I ask have either of you ever driven a sprint car on a dirt track, at any speed, at night, and then had to try and avoid a person running at your vehicle?

        I’m sure the answer is no to all of these questions. So, then Tony since he had no contact with Ward that forced him to crash, would not have assumed he would be walking on the track.

        The car in front of Tony just barely missed him…one thing that is certainly clear from the video. Tony was right behind that car, so how would he see Ward until that car swerved to miss him? Then how much time would he have to react?

      • vaypor8 - Aug 27, 2014 at 6:57 PM

        Azrx- not alot of reaction time when he is mashing the gas in a turn, under caution, where there is a wrecked car…speaking of ignorant.

      • ncnativeraleigh - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:14 PM

        Azrx ask: “Have either of you ever raced a sprint car on a dirt track?” Many many years of dirt track experience. Using your contentions of conditions, which is without merit, Stewart should have taken even more precautions. While Stewart may or may not have ‘touched” him with the slide move under green, Stewart still was the impetus for Ward running out of track and spinning, anyone watching the video can tell Stewart was making a move up the track under green so not to break momentum for the back stretch from the slower driver taking the inside lane with the closing rate rapid. As for ignorance, look in a mirror, for my post was a question based on observations and experience, not assumptions rookie.

    • iroczz - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:27 PM

      The point you seem to not be getting are the facts that Ward spun and hit the wall all on his own, then out of miss placed aggression decided to exit his car, and lastly for reasons we will never know is he hurled himself onto Tony’s car, while it was traveling 30+ mph. It’s too bad he couldn’t have stuck that landing. I hear the Empire Super Sprints are now going to require aircraft style “no step” stickers on the nerf bars.

      • matty35 - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:30 PM

        Ncnativeraliegh and others, maybe all of that keep blaming Tony for the initial contact should go watch the video again, tony slides up the track to avoid a slowing lapped car… Maybe we should start blaming that driver. I have kept my mouth shut on this topic since it has happened but I am getting sick watching all you idiots bash Tony! So yes I have met him on a few occasions as I am currently a crew chief for a dirt team here in the northeast, yes I have driven dirt modifieds and at canandaigua, which is where it happened. Tony did a lot for the sport and didn’t have to show up to these tracks like he did, the promoters, drivers and fans loved when tony came out to race… He loves the sport just like many of us, and you wanna be drivers and tony haters have ruined this!!! This was a tragedy and you the haters have turned this into a murder….. Are you f’ing kidding me… I’m sure you’ve never had an accident too.. And to one up this, I’ll put any of you that have the balls to put you money where yor mouths are in one of my cars for a race and see how you make out! Bet you don’t make 3 laps!

  5. dalejunebugfan - Aug 27, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    Ontario County, NY Grand Jury Question to Stewart:

    GJ: Mr. Stewart, on the morning of the Watkins Glen NASCAR race, how did you go from “business as usual” less than 9 hours after killing Kevin Ward Jr. to “in shock and grieving” within the space of a few minutes?

    TS: Hendrick, Mobil, the other sponsors and the lawyers told me to.

  6. jagsfanugh - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    You people are just ignoring the facts. You have blindness because it’s a favorite or just one of the boys or just hate the guy. I do hope this is done honest and legal. No one here knows the facts. Fact is that the family of the slain man is grieving and Stewart whether intentional or not has to live with that.

  7. mourningcall - Aug 28, 2014 at 9:09 AM

    We expect more from “professionals” who represent American racing.
    Jamie McMurray told the audience how Ganassi often warns his drivers not to say they got in an “accident” in the event of a crash — because accidents don’t exist in racing.

    “If a meteor comes out of the sky (and hits the car), that’s an accident,” Ganassi said with his arm around McMurray. “Everything else is driver error.”

    But McMurray said he actually did get in an accident earlier this year.

    “At Dover, when the concrete (chunk) came up (out of the track) and I hit it, I told him in Turn 3, ‘I’d say that was an accident,'” McMurray said with a laugh….

  8. dalejunebugfan - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    We just hate it so much for Mr. Haas and everyone at Haas Automation, Haas CNC, that Stewart is dragging our sport through this disgraceful, shameful period with his responsibility in killing death of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.

    It reminds us of what Mr. Haas said about Stewart a few months ago.

    “But I think Stewart saw it my way, you know? Either that or get out of the building.”

    Time for Stewart to get out of the building and Mr. Haas rename his team Haas CNC Racing.

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