Skip to content

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

Aug 26, 2014, 10:41 PM EST

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

Latest Posts
  1. Brad Keselowski tips Lewis Hamilton to win F1 title

    Nov 23, 2014, 1:57 AM EST

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    “I believe in miracles but not this time. Lewis Hamilton has got this.”

  2. Remembering iconic motorsports PR great Denny Darnell

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:21 PM EST

    Denny Darnell (far left), with wife Jean, and Cyndee and Jerry Bonkowski. Denny Darnell (far left), with wife Jean, and Cyndee and Jerry Bonkowski.

    The world of motorsports — particularly NASCAR and NHRA — is mourning arguably the best public relations person it has ever seen, Denny Darnell, who passed away Saturday.

  3. Indy USF2000 winner Will Owen moves to Juncos Racing, Pro Mazda Series in 2015

    Nov 22, 2014, 6:15 PM EST

    (Photo courtesy Juncos Racing) (Photo courtesy Juncos Racing)

    Will Owen, who impressively won the 2014 USF2000 race as a rookie at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past May, is moving up the racing ladder.

  4. Marco Andretti, Will Power, AJ Allmendinger go back to roots in big karting race this weekend in Las Vegas

    Nov 22, 2014, 5:15 PM EST

    superkarts usa

    Marco Andretti, reigning IndyCar champ Will Power and NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger, are all going back to their racing roots this weekend in Las Vegas, taking part in one of the biggest karting events of the season.

  5. Luke Lambert, Ryan Newman’s crew chief, named ‘Problem Solver of the Year’; earns $100k prize

    Nov 22, 2014, 4:45 PM EST

    Ryan Newman, left, team owner Richard Childress and crew chief Luke Lambert together at Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Luke, Lambert, crew chief for Ryan Newman, has been named Federal-Mogul Motorparts’ “Problem Solver of the Year.” And with it comes a $100,000 prize that he’ll receive Dec. 4 in Las Vegas.

  6. Former F1 driver Mark Webber talks Hamilton-Rosberg title battle (VIDEO)

    Nov 22, 2014, 4:30 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Race Getty Images

    The former Grand Prix regular and current sports car racer chats with NBCSN’s Will Buxton in Abu Dhabi.

  7. Force India owner Vijay Mallya comes out firing against Red Bull on Twitter

    Nov 22, 2014, 3:50 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    Mallya attacks Red Bull following its double exclusion from today’s qualifying session in Abu Dhabi.

  8. Formula E Notes: Lucas di Grassi keeps points lead; Nick Heidfeld excluded from Putrajaya ePrix

    Nov 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    Formula E Championship - Putrajaya Getty Images

    di Grassi climbs from 18th on the grid to second at finish in Putrajaya ePrix; Nick Heidfeld found to have made pit stop car change outside permitted area, relegated to 19th.

  9. Abu Dhabi GP Paddock Notebook – Saturday

    Nov 22, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    The stage is set for the final showdown on Sunday. Will it be Lewis or Nico?

  10. GP2: Vandoorne claims fourth win of 2014 in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 22, 2014, 1:45 PM EST

    © GP2 Media Service © GP2 Media Service

    McLaren junior driver moves up to second in the championship with feature race win in Abu Dhabi.

  11. IndyCar: Ryan Hunter-Reay, partners give $2.5 million to new Cleveland Clinic cancer center

    Nov 22, 2014, 1:30 PM EST

    Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - Day 2 Getty Images

    The new cancer center’s lobby will be named in honor of RHR’s late mother, who succumbed to colon cancer in 2009.

  12. Stevens impresses in maiden F1 qualifying outing

    Nov 22, 2014, 1:15 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI-PRACTICE Getty Images

    The British F1 debutant will start his first grand prix from 17th place tomorrow.

  13. Jeremy Mayfield continues racing comeback this weekend in Myrtle Beach

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:58 PM EST

    Jeremy Mayfield, shown in one of his last Sprint Cup races, at Texas, in 2009. He was suspended by the sanctioning body a few weeks later for failing a drug test. (File photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

    He remains suspended by NASCAR, but Jeremy Mayfield continues his racing comeback this weekend at Myrtle Beach Speedway.

  14. Red Bull drivers excluded from qualifying in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI-PRACTICE Getty Images

    Ricciardo and Vettel to start from the back of the grid in Abu Dhabi.

  15. Button ready to enjoy what could be his final grand prix

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying Getty Images

    With his family and friends in Abu Dhabi, Button is simply enjoying the moment.

  16. McLaren likely to keep Vandoorne in GP2 next year

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:30 AM EST

    © Alastair Staley/LAT Photographic © Alastair Staley/LAT Photographic

    The 22-year-old is not set to move up to F1 despite an incredible rookie season in GP2.

  17. Bottas and Williams cast in Abu Dhabi spoiler role from second row

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:15 AM EST

    BottasADp3 Getty Images

    Valtteri Bottas and Williams best of the rest once again in Abu Dhabi qualifying.

  18. O’Connell confident Caterham can find a buyer

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Practice Getty Images

    The administrator put in charge of the ailing F1 team believes that a buyer can be found in the next couple of weeks.

  19. Vettel frustrated to have Ferrari test blocked by Red Bull

    Nov 22, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI-PRESSER Getty Images

    “The technical people were panicking a little bit, being afraid that I would take some secrets.”

Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1752)
  2. J. Johnson (1691)
  3. D. Hamlin (1566)
  4. J. Logano (1561)
  5. T. Stewart (1503)
  1. R. Newman (1386)
  2. K. Harvick (1348)
  3. K. Kahne (1342)
  4. J. McMurray (1326)
  5. K. Larson (1161)