Category: Views

No, Audi Isn’t Joining NASCAR

It seems like there are a lot of things that are really predictable about NASCAR (and the NASCAR media) anymore. When the Cup Series takes to Sonoma in June or Watkins Glen in August, you prepare for the newest rehash of the same “Should the Chase have a road course?”, “Road Course Ringers Are Dead!” and the like from pretty much every news outlet that covers NASCAR.

With this week’s off week for NASCAR courtesy of the Easter holiday, we knew that some stories would come out of the woodwork as sites start getting desperate to attract readers that are looking for any NASCAR coverage this weekend. And without fail this week, we got one, but only after Brian France kind of egged things on a bit. This week’s out-of-the-woodwork story is that not only is there supposedly one new auto manufacturer that is interested in joining NASCAR, there are multiple, and one of them is Audi.

One of the media members to pick up the “Audi to NASCAR” rumor was Matt Dillner, which propelled many sites to pick up the rumor and run with it- all without any actual evidence beyond Dillner’s tweet and Brian France’s words on a SiriusXM interview.

To start, let me just say that this “Audi to NASCAR “ rumor isn’t exactly new. Audi or at least some part of the Volkswagen Group, has been linked to joining NASCAR for years- albeit without much evidence to ever support the idea. I can recall this rumor cropping up around the time that Toyota joined Cup, and that isn’t the earliest this rumor can be traced to- when Toyota was rumored to be joining the national NASCAR Series in the early 2000s, a rumor of VW joining with them was floated. It really begs the question: what’s special about having heard this rumor “for 2 years” when it dates back almost 15 years? But I digress. The “VW to NASCAR” rumor cropped up again when Dodge left NASCAR, because many people were optimistic that we would maintain the status quo of having 4 manufacturers, and none of the VW brands have joined NASCAR in the 4 years since Dodge left… or the 15 or so years that this rumor can be traced back. Now, here we are in the spring of 2016 and the rumor is back again.

What would be stopping Audi from joining NASCAR? The biggest roadblock would be the entire Volkswagen Group’s current emissions scandal, in which VW is accused of installing “defeat devices” in their diesel-powered cars to pass emissions tests while being tested, but once taken out of this test mode, they pollute many times higher than is allowed.

While this only covers around half a million passenger vehicles sold in the US, VW has admitted that the number of cars with these devices could be as high as 11 million worldwide for nitric oxide emissions and an additional 800,000 vehicles in Europe for carbon dioxide emissions. The scandal led to investigations by the German government, the European Union, China, a potential buyback of about 115,000 affected vehicles, and has set the company up for an estimated $18 billion in fines alone (though is number is outdated and could actually be much higher).

The question becomes why would VW join NASCAR with their Audi brand, when they’re facing billions of dollars in expenses relating to this scandal? It simply does not make any sense. The costs to compete in NASCAR are huge- Toyota’s entry to just the Truck Series was rumored to cost over $100 million, with their entry into Cup in 2017 possibly costing as much as an additional quarter of a billion (that’s $250 million) just to make it to Daytona in February 2017. Audi would be able to skip the Truck Series investments, but they have to either build teams up in-house or convince teams to switch from their current manufacturers, at a cost of several million dollars a year per car.

It takes years to develop the car, engine, and all of the parts and pieces needed to enter NASCAR. It took Toyota 3 years to jump from Trucks to Cup, and in 2017 it was a disaster for the manufacturer. Even if things were announced tomorrow for Audi to join NASCAR, they wouldn’t field a Cup team until probably 2019 or 2020 at the earliest. By then, the company will likely either be in the final stages of settling any lawsuits relating to this emissions scandal, or will have reached their settlements and begun paying any fines that come with their settlements. The only good news is that the 2019-2020 time frame is around when NASCAR is expected to have their next generation racecar developed, so it would be a good time to join since all of the manufacturers would likely have a new car design to deal with.

The big question still remains: Why would Audi even want to join NASCAR? The entire VW group is enjoying their success in the World Endurance Championship, IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and other series with their Audi, Porsche, and multitude of other brands. The investment costs to go run NASCAR don’t jive with what they would get in return. Audi would have to avoid taking the route Toyota did in joining Cup, and would have to attract a championship-caliber team from the start to avoid the disastrous results that Toyota had their first season. Although you can’t ever predict some of these wild manufacturer switches (did anyone see Stewart-Haas Racing switching to Ford coming?), who would Audi target? Hendrick is ingrained with Chevy. JGR is ingrained with Toyota. Ford has the new Penske/Stewart-Haas/Roush 3 team partnership. Penske would be the only championship-caliber team that could probably be convinced to switch, but they’re happy at Ford and will probably be in the middle of a new long-term deal with the manufacturer around the time this rumor would play out.

Bottom line, while NASCAR might be able to use a fourth manufacturer in Cup to make things a bit more competitive top-to-bottom, don’t expect it to come from the Volkswagen Auto Group, especially in light of all of the problems that the entire company faces, and don’t expect it to happen any time soon.

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be Excited About the 2016 NASCAR Season

We’re just a few days away from the return of NASCAR racing for another season. There’s a lot to be excited about, and with good reason. There’s finally a rookie class that looks like it’ll produce a race-winning rookie driver for the first time since 2009. Picking an organization as the “best” team going into the season is problematic- while the usual suspects are almost all good choices for a preseason pick to be the Champion, picking one team that as a whole is the top dog right now is simply not easy.

While all of that is true, and on the one hand you can be excited for the 2016 NASCAR season, here are several reasons why you probably need to scale back that excitement.

Remember the new aero package to reduce downforce, the digital dashboard, and all those other improvements to the cars?

Yeah, probably not. And it’s forgivable if you’ve forgotten all of those changes to the cars, as they haven’t exactly been the talking point of the offseason (hi there, charter franchise system). But, the aero package being run in most races in 2016 was hyped up following Kentucky last year, and will hopefully bring about better racing in 2016.

However, we’ve heard that story before, and it’s rarely ever panned out. The issue isn’t that the setup isn’t conducive to better racing: it’s that the engineers employed by the teams are finding more and more ways to counter any changes that NASCAR makes in order to find that extra millisecond of speed in the cars. While there certainly is a chance that the racing will be better in 2016 (no more 10+ second leads on the intermediate tracks), if a team hits their setup and has an advantage, they’re still going to pull away from the pack.

The 2016 Olympics Impact the TV Schedule

Okay, so this probably should not be a concern, except it is. NASCAR fans have a habit of not being able to find the channel that the race is on, despite the entire schedule being posted on hundreds of websites. After so many complained about not being able to find a race on FOX, FS1, NBC, or NBCSN, with NBC covering the 2016 Olympics over the summer, the Watkins Glen Cup race as well as the Xfinity Series races at Mid-Ohio and Bristol will be moved to the USA Network, while the Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen will air on CNBC.

While USA is available in more households than NBCSN as of November 2015, no one thinks of the channel as being where NASCAR will be found. Add in that these races were some of the lowest-viewed races in 2015, it’s safe to say right now that the ratings will be absolutely dreadful in 2016.

Bottom line, prepare for NASCAR fans to be complaining incessantly during those race weekends when suddenly NBCSN isn’t showing those races and they can’t find the channel that they’re on. The Olympics are a huge event, and I completely understand the move of NASCAR events to a channel that won’t be showing something related to the Olympics. That won’t stop NASCAR fans from being outraged. Plus, having to remember a different channel for one race is just annoying.

The TV Coverage Is Still Lacking… And Probably Won’t Be Getting (Much) Better in 2016

Warning: This is the long entry in the list.

This is one of those points that you will either agree wholeheartedly with or believe that I am absolutely wrong about. However, the TV coverage last year was absolutely awful, both on Fox and NBC. Fox’s strategy of having The Three Stooges in the commentary booth for their Cup events continued in 2015, as Darrell Waltrip, Larry MacReynolds, and Mike Joy polluted the airwaves through Fox’s 16 Cup races. On the bright side, Jeff Gordon is joining the booth for 2016 as Larry MacReynolds’ replacement, which should hopefully improve the commentary from the booth. The big concern though is that instead of improving the quality of the product being produced by Fox, Gordon will act just like Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip.

Their Xfinity Series coverage was made slightly more tolerable than Cup in 2015 by bringing in current Cup Series drivers to provide guest commentary. Having the insight of Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski added at least a new dimension to the broadcasts, though admittedly of the special guest commentators, Danica Patrick was certainly the weakest of the group. Seeing this continue in 2016 is one of the few good things about Fox’s television coverage.

Truck Series coverage is still a disaster in waiting. With a booth of Vince Welch, Phil Parsons, and Michael Waltrip, it’s almost as if Fox Sports has decided to punish NASCAR fans that tune in to the Truck races. The coverage was already bad in 2015, but this trio has absolutely no redeeming qualities.

While I clearly give Fox some flak for their coverage, NBC isn’t innocent. The booth for NBC’s Cup events isn’t nearly as good as it was hyped up to be. It wasn’t necessarily bad. It was just… mediocre. Hopefully year two of NBC’s Cup coverage means that the trio has more time to mesh together and for each member to find their role.

For Xfinity, NBC’s coverage is… dismal. The rotating cast of characters often led to disappointment. Ralph Sheheen, Dale Jarrett, Leigh Diffey, Frank Stoddard, and Ray Evernham rotating in for the Cup commentators simply made things feel disjointed more often than not. Whenever NBC’s “B” team (or “C” team, as it sometimes felt) was calling a standalone Xfinity race, there just wasn’t any excitement; instead of engaging the viewer I sometimes felt like NBC was actively working to drive away viewers. In 2016, I expect this cast to rotate just as much, if not more, for the standalone races.

I’m not even going to really get into the whole “let’s move stuff to FS2 or CNBC or whatnot”. Neither network is innocent at this, and the trend of moving things off a main channel will continue as TV ratings continue their freefall. Get used to either finding these more obscure networks or simply doing without the coverage if you don’t get the channel.

NASCAR Has Now Locked Most Tracks Into 5-Year Agreements

Yep, if you’re one of those people that want to see new tracks added to the Cup schedule… good luck. All of the Cup tracks are now locked into sanctioning agreements with NASCAR through the 2020 season. So no, Iowa isn’t getting a Cup date any time soon, nor is NASCAR going to add more road courses to the Cup schedule (and I’m *definitely* looking forward to that debate cropping up during the Sonoma and Watkins Glen weekends like it always does).

Not that ISC or SMI were ever in much danger of losing a race date, but now it’s basically guaranteed until 2020 unless a track goes bankrupt that no one is losing a date. Get used to the Cup schedule you saw in 2015 because, aside from minor changes due to events like Easter, that schedule is here to stay through 2020. That means two Cup races at Pocono, two races at Texas, two races at New Hampshire, two races at Kansas, zero races at Iowa, pretty much the same Chase schedule, and Homestead holding the season finale for the next five seasons.

So even if these tracks put on absolute snorefests of races this season, they’re even less likely to get booted off the schedule than before

There Are Still Rules That NASCAR Has Not Yet Figured Out

Daytona 500 qualifying is on Sunday. NASCAR is expected to announce their qualifying format for the four “open” spots in Cup for the teams that do not have a charter on Thursday. There’s still no decision on how NASCAR will alter the green-white-checkered finish rule for plate races, how the Can-Am Duel 150 races will determine the 4 “open” spots in the 40 car field, how the four spots will be field if qualifying is canceled, whether there will be a Champion’s Provisional (the belief is that no, there won’t be), and a plethora of other rules. Heck, with the drop to 40 cars in the field now for a Cup race, there’s the expectation that NASCAR will adjust the current point system. Yep, we’re under two weeks to the season’s first race and we have no idea how the points are going to work this year.

And the best part? NASCAR’s probably going to change some stuff around just because they can in the middle of the season. There’s a reason that the joke of NASCAR’s rulebook being written in pencil is a real joke: sometimes, it feels like that is actually true.

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Charter, Charter, Charter

It was indeed a historic day for NASCAR on Tuesday, we know that because the press release starts with that line. Beyond being told, it was historic in NASCAR finally worked a franchising/Charter system with the teams that run in its series. In announcing it, I couldn’t help but think that it’s exactly like every major NASCAR decision that’s been made under Brian France; good idea with poor execution.

The Good

A major problem for middle to lower tiered teams was they could never really plan out beyond a year or two. All sponsorship agreements and driver signings were with the short term in mind, now with the agreement they will be in the Charter for nine years. On top of that, they will be guaranteed to make every race. This way teams can build for the future without worry about struggling to make each race.

For the teams in the Charter, they will also benefit from new revenue streams ranging from the guaranteed purse to new online ventures. Aligning the online experience for fans will aid teams in marketing strategies and allow them more time to come up with new ideas. This sort of tactic is seen in other sports such as the NFL and the NHL.

The added bonus was cutting the field down from 43 cars each week to 40. This was a long overdue move since there hasn’t been 43 competitive teams in a very long time.

The Bad

While the announcement was made today, like most, there’s still some details that have yet to be released. Mainly in this case is how the Duels will be done for Daytona. The whole idea is for drivers to race their way in, well now there will be 36 guaranteed spots for Charter members, so what is the point of the race?

There is a performance based clause in the Charter, but it will be reviewed on a yearly basis. During the year NASCAR will nag a team into performing better. The tough part is to police this and it is doubtful NASCAR would ever really strip a team’s Charter.

Outrage was seen on Twitter regarding Wood Brothers Racing, who did not get a Charter. They have not run full-time since 2008, thus ineligible to receive membership as they needed to run full-time since 2013. While other teams like Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing need an additional Charter, they will be buying theirs, leaving the Woods out. If one of the main points of the announcement wasn’t about the history of the sport, maybe there would be less anger since the Woods have been involved since the beginning of NASCAR.

The Ugly

Speaking of selling Charters, this is where it gets ugly. While Rob Kauffman was a great choice from a business perspective to head up the Charter creation, there was a giant conflict of interest. Not so much that Kaufman is a team owner, as it the point of this system to sync up NASCAR and owners better, but the idea he has two Charters to sell now.

Kaufman won’t get back what he put into Michael Waltrip Racing by selling his two Charters, but he will get something from them. Something he quoted to be in the range of 4-8 million dollars. The issue at hand is at first the Charters would command lower amounts, but pitting teams against each other has driven the price and with Daytona just this week, teams are panicking. Premium Motorsports was awarded one Charter, but will be leasing that out to HScott Motorsports for around $1.5 million this year. What’s to stop them from leasing it every year to the highest bidder?

Looking at the Wood Brothers team again, they have struggled to get the funds to run full-time. This year they will be, but are out of the Charter (as seen above). With NASCAR being lucky to draw more than 40 cars each week, qualifying won’t be an issue, losing out on prize money is the issue. Charter teams are guaranteed more money each week than non-Charter teams. Where’s the incentive for them to run the full-year then?

Who Will NOT Be Filling In For Tony Stewart

News came out earlier this week Tony Stewart was involved in a “non-racing” accident (because that makes it better for us to take? Weird emphasis on “non-racing” on nearly every press release) and will miss significant time after sustaining a burst fracture of his L1 vertebra. This will take a substantial amount of time to heal, thus opening the door for a replacement driver in the #14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). Continue reading “Who Will NOT Be Filling In For Tony Stewart”

The New World Charter

Talk of a charter system taking over the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ownership model has heated up as we get closer to the start of the 2016 season. With no firm deal yet, it is hard to speculate on what kind of impact this will have, but we are starting to see movement by teams in preparation of what will come.

The first such move was the dissolving of the Hillman Racing team (#40) and the merger of Cirlce Sport Racing and Leavine Family Racing (LFR). In essence, Circle Sport took its cars and points from their #33 car and has allowed the LFR team to now go for a full season for the first time in their history. While it is always sad to see teams go away because of the impact on the team workers, in this case it was a welcome move.

Circle Sport Racing only seemed to perform when it had direct help from Richard Childress Racing, not only behind the scenes, but with either Ty Dillon or Brian Scott driving. When it wasn’t either one of those drivers, it was a random mix of drivers ranging from Alex Kennedy to Ryan Ellis to even B.J. McLeod. Each one getting the ride because they had some sponsor to bring with them.

In an interview with Popular Speed, Ellis said the days of a driver buying a ride for the weekend could be over. This is the same driver who took to fans to raise money needed for driving. How is this a bad thing? While less teams inherently mean less opportunity, just because a driver has sponsorship does not mean they are worthy of an opportunity.

Furthermore, what is better for NASCAR racing, having more cars that are less competitive or less cars that are more competitive? I would say I’d rather see 35-40 cars out there if they will all compete, versus getting to that magic 43 number that was picked for some reason during the 1998 season.

That point plays into what transpired during the day on Thursday, which was the moves by Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR). About a month after announcing a sponsor and getting their pictures taken with driver Alex Bowman, TBR released Bowman from his duties.

The cited reason by team owner Tommy Baldwin was “as NASCAR transitions to different business and competition models, teams have to make decisions accordingly.” In plainer terms, TBR needs to be running closer to the front and it might be because the charter might be based upon points positioning from this year.

Baldwin has chosen veteran Regan Smith, who is an upgrade over Bowman, but it is not clear what kind of miracles he can work with the TBR team. They are optimistic in their hire, as we should be optimistic that this charter system can lead to stronger teams going forward knowing they are locked into the field each week.

Ever Changing NASCAR

If you’re not a big fan of change, then maybe it’s time to get off the NASCAR rollercoaster. We had another media week kick off and it was full of even more changes and fan outrage than usual. It is almost as if this is becoming a yearly tradition of pushing traditional fans to the brink of no return.

When the news first started to break at 11 am this morning with NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France it resulted in an alarming firestorm of media and fans on Twitter. Bits and pieces of the ideas being implemented in 2016 were brought up, but no real meat and potatoes were offered to help explain and support the ideas.

Well, that’s Brian France for you. The man who has guided NASCAR for the last 13 years still does not seem like he has a grasp on public speaking or even sounding genuine. Ideas were delivered, but he added nothing to them. Granted, that’s what VP and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell was for, but I would have liked France to just give us something other than the run around. For a man who had just had knee surgery, France was bobbing and weaving on stage like Mohammed Ali in his prime.

He would throw an idea out, then move on to the next topic. In the short Q and A session with France, media members like Jim Utter, asked serious questions about the logic of some of the new ideas. France spoke in circles, then went to the next question. Basically it was France’s job to drop the bomb (or turd as I described on Twitter) and O’Donnell’s job was to polish it into something nice. I do not envy that messy job for O’Donnell.

Of the announcements, let’s get to the best one first, that no longer will the Sprint Cup Series Chase have dumb names for each round. There was the Challenger Round, Eliminator Round, Terminator Round, and Other Word Ending In “Er” Round (some of those might have been made up). Instead we will just have “Round of 16” or “Round of 12,” which is not only descriptive and simplistic, but easy to remember. “How many drivers are left? Well round of 12, I’m going to go with…12!”

It took me about eight hours, some pizza, and a Coke Zero, but I might have finally come to terms with the other major announcements. That and the fact (as always) this is NASCAR’s sandbox and anyone is welcome to leave at any point to find a better sandbox. Well, I’m going to stay, not happy, but I will stay…and complain. That said, the ideas did start to grow on me…some.

Let’s start with the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash, which had previously been four races during the Xfinity Series that Xfinity handed out money to the highest finishing Xfinity Series only driver. Xfinity. Now instead of that, the four races will be unique and feature Two Heats and a Main Event. The tracks involved will be Bristol (good choice), Richmond (another good choice), Dover (getting colder), and Indianapolis (why!?).

Now the rules straight from the horse’s (NASCAR) mouth:

Qualifying for each Dash 4 Cash event will set the 40-car field and the starting positions for the Two Heats with the fastest qualifier awarded the Coors Light Pole Award. Odd-numbered qualifiers (1st, 3rd, 5th, etc.) will start in the first Heat in respective order, while even-numbered qualifiers (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc.) will start the second Heat in respective order.

The Two Heats will set the starting positions for the Main with the top two NASCAR XFINITY Series regulars in each Heat becoming eligible for the Dash 4 Cash bonus. The highest finishing driver among the four Dash 4 Cash eligible drivers will be awarded a $100,000 bonus. If any driver wins two of the four Dash 4 Cash bonuses available, he/she is all but guaranteed a spot in the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. In short, two Dash 4 Cash bonuses are equivalent to one race win in the new NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase format.

Now that brings up something I probably should have led with. The Xfinity Series (and Trucks, we’ll get to them in a bit) will have a Chase for the Spri…Xfinity Cup! Not only will there be a Chase, but it will be elimination style like the last two Cup Series Chases. The biggest difference from the Cup Series is only 12 drivers will be in the Chase (thankfully, I think there might be 10 teams with realistic hopes of the title…scratch that, maybe 8) and only two elimination rounds rather than three.

Like the Cup Series it’s a ‘win and you’re in’ deal (unless you declare for Cup points) or win two of the four Dash races (above) and you’re in. And if that’s still not enough and Cup drivers have dominated the year, you can get in by being in the top-12 in points. The Chase starts at Kentucky, the second round starts at Kansas, and that sets up the finale to actually mean something at Homestead. Each cut race eliminates four drivers.

I rejected this idea at first, but if it adds some excitement/meaning to the final race, sure let’s do it. As much as I get annoyed at the idea of a Chase where streaky or fluky things can happen, it is what it is. If it can yield better, closer racing, then I’m in. If Elliott Sadler somehow wins the title, then we must scrap the idea and burn the history books while vowing to never speak of this again.

Enter the Truck Series, who will also get their own Chase for the Camping World Cup…or something. Copy and paste most of what I said above with some minor tweaks for the lower series. Only eight drivers will enter the Chase and the first starts at New Hampshire, the second at Martinsville, and that sets up the finale at Homestead. Two drivers get eliminated after each round to bring it to four finalists.

For a series with only about six viable championship options, this is a bit silly. That was Jim Utter’s question of Brian France, to which France commented he enjoys underdog stories. Well that might just happen when you let outcomes be determined by one random race, but we’ll see how this plays out and if it adds excitement to the races. Also, if this fails miserably we can thank Erik Jones. He was named by France as the inspiration because last year, while running the final race for the title, Jones went with the “just finish” strategy instead of going for the win. While it worked, it apparently did not impress France.

As an added bonus for each of the new Chases (Xfinity and Trucks) for some odd reason any driver who made the 2015 Cup Series Chase is ineligible to drive in the finale at Homestead for either series. I get the idea of allowing the Xfinity and Truck drivers to fight it out amongst themselves, but shouldn’t you then ban all of the Cup drivers? I mean, I don’t think Jeff Gordon was coming out of retirement to run that race, which is good because he can’t. It seemed to be a subtle way of keeping Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano out of the mix to run away with the race and leave TV to watch the battle for fifth and the title.

The final announcement was also about the Truck Series and this one is a bit hard to take in. When a race is in continuous green flag conditions, after 20 minutes an automatic caution will be thrown. France’s rationale he tossed out there was so the inexperienced crews could work on the cars, thus making racing better. Others equate it to a timeout during football so fans can go get food and tinkle. Maybe it’ll help FOX go to less commercials, but again, we’ll have to wait and see. I think it is a dumb idea, especially since NASCAR has had no trouble finding non-existent debris to throw the caution for. I guess now they don’t have to spend money on binoculars to find this debris.

All in all, my initial reaction was one of absolute horror for what the sport I have loved for the past 25 year has become. As I got to thinking about things, maybe this is a good step in the right direction for the Xfinity and Truck Series. They often get forgotten and today have been at the forefront of the discussion. If nothing else, it’ll give them some press to kick off the 2016 season.

Johnson Not Solely To Blame For Harvick’s Trouble

For Kevin Harvick, yesterday’s poor finish can be directly linked to the actions of Jimmie Johnson. That much was evident after Johnson tried to talk to him about the contact that led to a cut left rear tire. Harvick gave Johnson a shove (or punch depending on how you saw it) and many choice words. If you didn’t see the video, you will soon because NASCAR will be pushing this baby all over to promote their Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship battle.

Johnson took the jab in stride, let Harvick yap, and when it seemed nothing would be accomplished, walked away. Not all of this falls onto Johnson’s shoulders, sure it was his car that made the contact that put Harvick in that position, but there’s other factors involved.

If you watch the video, you can see Joey Logano push Johnson on the restart, leaving Johnson with nowhere to go but low below Harvick. The option there would have been to plow into Harvick and we could only guess where that would lead. A giant pile up? Harvick’s car getting trashed anyways? Or maybe nothing would have happened.

The option Johnson went with was going low next to Harvick, something Harvick was aware of. There was an opening next to Harvick, so the option was there for him to slide over without contact, but Harvick wanted to send the message he wasn’t giving an inch to Johnson.

“I saw those guys coming on the apron. They must have gotten together and had a good run up. But I just held my ground and he (Johnson) just slammed into the side of the door like I wasn’t even there. So, the spotter was telling me four-wide and I guess he just figured that he’d come up the race track,” said Harvick.

Johnson also had that mindset, as he came over whether Harvick was willing to move or not. “He (Harvick) didn’t leave me any space. He was pinning me down, and I had to get back up on the track. I wouldn’t say that what he did was any different than other situations I’ve been in like that. When you are in his position, you want to get the inside car in a bad angle so they have to lift. I was fine with lifting, but I had to get back on the race track, so I worked my way back up on the track,” commented Johnson after the race.

The contact took place, which is a common occurrence in the world of racing. What makes this unique, is Harvick and his crew ran the calculated risk that the damage inflicted would not lead to a cut tire. It is a coin flip situation, as you can try and run around hoping the tire and fender separate before the tire goes. That was not the case of Harvick, who shortly thereafter lost his left rear.

While it would have been costly to come down pit road, it paled in comparison to what transpired and the time lost repairing a fully wrecked vehicle. I understand it is the Chase, you are up front and want to do your best, but you have to error on the side of caution when something like that happens.

Right now Harvick doesn’t want to hear it or share the blame, but things could been done differently on both sides. The good thing for Harvick is he is fast enough each week, that winning at New Hampshire or Dover is a possibility, it just means he and his crew need to be flawless the next two races.