Skip to content

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

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Vautier to replace Huertas at last-minute for Indy 500

    May 21, 2015, 11:51 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    In a bizarre and truly 11th hour circumstance, Tristan Vautier appears set to replace Carlos Huertas in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

  2. IndyCar driver raises concern about design of wishbone that injured James Hinchcliffe in crash

    May 21, 2015, 5:57 PM EDT

    James Hinchcliffe James Hinchcliffe

    Oriol Servia says a connecting rod was removed that might have prevented the part from piercing the tub and critically injuring driver.

  3. GP2: Rossi storms to pole position in Monaco qualifying

    May 21, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    © GP2 Series © GP2 Series

    American driver claims his second pole position in GP2 with a mesmerising display in Monaco on Thursday.

  4. SPM targets Monday for next driver confirmation in No. 5 car as drivers await

    May 21, 2015, 4:32 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    The No. 5 beyond Indy 500 could be Daly, Wilson, or A.N. Other.

  5. Formula E: Audi Sport ABT confirms unchanged line-up for season two

    May 21, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - JANUARY 08:  Daniel Abt poses for pictures next to his car during a paddock preview at Puerto Madero Street Race Track on January 08, 2015 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Daniel Abt confirmed to be remaining with his family team for season two of the Formula E series.

  6. IndyCar confirms Boston race for 2016

    May 21, 2015, 3:47 PM EDT

    BostonStreetTrack

    Boston confirmed for 2016 and beyond in IndyCar.

  7. Ethan Ringel scores Indy Lights pole for Freedom 100

    May 21, 2015, 3:33 PM EDT

    Photo: IMS Photography, LLC Photo: IMS Photography, LLC

    SPM takes four of the top five spots on the Indy Lights grid.

  8. Alonso: New rules proof F1 went in the wrong direction

    May 21, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    xxxx during practice for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 21, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. Getty Images

    The McLaren driver lends his support to the proposed changes to F1 for 2017.

  9. Button happy with refuelling return, but remains keen to see a tire war in F1

    May 21, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    xxxx during previews to the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 20, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. Getty Images

    McLaren driver talks about the proposed changes for F1 ahead of this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

  10. Briscoe: “I’ve been made as comfortable as I could be in this situation”

    May 21, 2015, 12:31 PM EDT

    BriscoeIMS Getty Images

    Given the circumstances, Ryan Briscoe feels comfortable heading into his fill-in role for James Hinchcliffe in the Indianapolis 500.

  11. Bottas flattered by speculation linking him to Ferrari

    May 21, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 20:  Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Williams (rear) and Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari (front) attend the drivers press conference during previews to the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 20, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Williams driver admits that he is flattered to be linked with a drive at a top team, but remains coy when asked about a possible move away for 2016.

  12. Briscoe officially confirmed in Hinchcliffe’s car for Indy 500

    May 21, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT

    Photo: SPM IndyCar Photo: SPM IndyCar

    Briscoe replacement for James Hinchcliffe made official Thursday morning.

  13. Hamilton: No doubt I’d re-sign with Mercedes

    May 21, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 20:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks in the paddock during previews to the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 20, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Defending world champion says he never contemplated leaving Mercedes for another team.

  14. The 100th Indy 500 and GP of Indy 2016 dates are released

    May 21, 2015, 10:52 AM EDT

    Photo: IMS Photo: IMS

    Logo and date for the 100th Indianapolis 500 is revealed.

  15. F1 Paddock Pass: Monaco Grand Prix (VIDEO)

    May 21, 2015, 9:53 AM EDT

    McLaren Honda's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso (C) and Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg (L) drive  during the first practice session at the Monaco street circuit in Monte-Carlo on May 21, 2015, ahead of the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZES        (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Will Buxton brings you all of the interviews and news ahead of the biggest event on the F1 calendar: the Monaco Grand Prix.

  16. Hamilton tops quiet second Monaco GP practice

    May 21, 2015, 9:31 AM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 21:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP drives during practice for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 21, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Hamilton continues his good form by posting the fastest time in FP2 before the rain falls and limits running in Monaco on Thursday.

  17. WATCH LIVE: FP2 for the Monaco Grand Prix on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET

    May 21, 2015, 7:46 AM EDT

    xxxx during practice for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 21, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. Getty Images

    Lewis Hamilton bids to double up in the second free practice session in Monaco on Thursday.

  18. Hamilton quickest in opening practice for Monaco GP

    May 21, 2015, 5:36 AM EDT

    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton  drives during the first practice session at the Monaco street circuit in Monte-Carlo on May 21, 2015, ahead of the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix.        (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Hamilton quickest in a busy FP1 session in Monaco as Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo spring a surprise to finish second and third respectively.

  19. WATCH LIVE: FP1 for the Monaco Grand Prix on Live Extra from 4am ET

    May 21, 2015, 3:45 AM EDT

    xxxx during previews to the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 20, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. Getty Images

    As is tradition in Monaco, practice kicks off on Thursday for the race weekend.

  20. Beekhuis offers clarity on Hinchcliffe crash, concern about what could happen in Indy 500

    May 20, 2015, 10:40 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Jon Beekhuis official Twitter account) (Photo courtesy Jon Beekhuis official Twitter account)

    Jon Beekhuis, veteran IndyCar pit reporter and past driver, provides some valuable insights into the type of crash James Hinchcliffe had on Monday, having been through one similarly in the past.