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. Bottas confident improved 2015 campaign possible for Williams

    Oct 31, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS Getty Images

    Despite exceeding everyone’s expectations in 2014, Valtteri Bottas feels that the team can continue its upward trend next season.

  2. Hamilton quickest in first practice for United States GP

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

    HamiltonFP1COTA Getty Images

    Two-time US GP winner makes the best possible start to his race weekend by topping FP1 in Austin.

  3. Joey Logano goes for Texas sweep, berth in Sprint Cup title race this weekend

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:14 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Logano’s currently in position to advance to the final battle at Homestead, but he says he’ll stay aggressive this weekend at Texas.

  4. VIDEO: Behind the scenes at Red Bull, 24 hours before a GP weekend

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews Getty Images

    Red Bull takes you behind-the-scenes in the lead-up to this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

  5. Austin FP1 features new helmets, liveries and bits and pieces

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    COTAstars AP

    Various updates coming to portions of the grid this weekend, starting in FP1.

  6. Mario Andretti gets the USGP weekend started with COTA Twitter takeover

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT

    Italy F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Mario Andretti takes time out of a busy schedule for fan Q&A for Circuit of the Americas.

  7. This weekend, Helio Castroneves on sidelines as girlfriend runs NYC Marathon

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    The Blacks' Annual Gala 2014 Getty Images

    Adriana Henao is running to raise money for actor Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization and The Long Run to Haiti.

  8. WATCH LIVE: FP1 for the United States GP

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    F1 US Grand Prix Auto Racing AP

    Watch first practice from COTA live on Live Extra from 11a ET today.

  9. NASCAR: Elliott Sadler jumping to Roush for 2015 XFINITY Series season

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Credit: Roush Fenway Racing Credit: Roush Fenway Racing

    Former Sprint Cup veteran will bring his OneMain Financial sponsorship with him.

  10. From GP3 to F1, it’s been quite a year for Daniil Kvyat

    Oct 31, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia Getty Images

    After just one year in F1, Kvyat will be replacing four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull next season. Not bad going!

  11. Extreme Speed gearing up for overseas WEC debut

    Oct 31, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Photo: Extreme Speed Motorsports Photo: Extreme Speed Motorsports

    Extreme Speed takes its HPDs to Shanghai for the FIA WEC race.

  12. FIA confirms changes to qualifying format in Austin

    Oct 31, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-JPN-F1 Getty Images

    Four cars will drop out in Q1 and Q2 to account for the absence of both Caterham and Marussia at COTA.

  13. Grosjean reveals Lotus escape clause

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    GrosjeanAUS AP

    Romain Grosjean can opt out of Lotus at year’s end if he so desires.

  14. Button hit with five-place grid penalty for Austin

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS Getty Images

    British driver forced to change his gearbox for this weekend’s race at COTA.

  15. Johnny Sauter is fastest in both Truck practices at Texas

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:39 PM EDT

    (Sean Gardner/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway) Getty Images

    Johnny Sauter was fastest in both NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practices Thursday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.

  16. NASCAR America video: Top five drivers to watch in Texas

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT

    (Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images) Getty Images

    On Thursday’s NASCAR America, Rusty Wallace gave his top five drivers to watch in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas. Rusty’s pick for the winner? Jeff Gordon.

  17. Alonso speaks of “ambitious plan” for his racing future

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Qualifying Getty Images

    Spaniard says that his future is not his first priority, and that all of the events of the past few months have gone as planned.

  18. NASCAR America video: Who has the best chance in Texas?

    Oct 30, 2014, 5:58 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

    On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Rick Allen and Rusty Wallace discussed what are Carl Edwards’ and Jeff Gordon’s chances Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

  19. Kaltenborn “beyond the stage of frustration” over F1’s cost crisis

    Oct 30, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-SIN-F1 Getty Images

    Sauber team boss has long warned about the problems blighting Formula 1.

  20. Hamilton excited by F1’s profile and growth in the USA

    Oct 30, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton AP

    British driver speaks about his appearance on NBC’s TODAY Show and his trip to New York City.

Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Harvick (1194)
  2. J. Logano (1152)
  3. T. Stewart (1126)
  4. J. McMurray (1117)
  5. D. Hamlin (887)