Lost amid the controversy that surrounded the finish of Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was the debt of gratitude Kevin Harvick owes to Danica Patrick.
On Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Harvick asserted he didn’t steer his No. 4 Chevrolet into the No. 6 Ford of Trevor Bayne and deliberately cause the wreck that ended the race under caution.
Harvick’s detractors, among them Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman—all of whom were eliminated from the Chase at Talladega—opined otherwise after the race, insisting Harvick caused the multicar crash that ultimately kept his hopes for a second straight title alive.
If truth be told, however, Harvick was in position to salvage a finish sufficient to keep him in the Chase because of the efforts of a Stewart-Haas teammate who is not part of the 10-race playoff—namely Patrick.
With Harvick’s engine down on power and failing, Patrick provided the drafting help her teammate needed to stay close enough to the front to score the points necessary to advance to the Eliminator Round.
“I was fortunate to have the 10 (Patrick) there to help,” Harvick said on Tuesday, his voice hoarse from a lingering cold. “She kept me in the pack. And then we were able to get ourselves situated in the middle of the pack. If I’d have gotten to the back of the pack, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the pack.
“But we got ourselves situated in the middle of the pack and were able to make ground and maintain what we needed to.”
Even though he survived the Contender Round with a 15th-place finish, Harvick considered himself lucky to advance, given the adversity he has faced in the first six events of the Chase.
“We’ve had a really sloppy six weeks, and we’re very fortunate to be sitting here today,” Harvick said. “Our cars have had plenty of speed, but we had the engine problem this week (at Talladega), a transmission problem the week before, a pit penalty before that.
“Charlotte was OK, Dover was OK, and then just a couple of mistakes and things happening in the first couple of weeks. ... We were very fortunate that it played out with those cautions (at the end of the race), 'cause if there were no cautions, who knows how it would have turned out.”
As to the naysayers, Harvick said he doesn’t pay attention to the noise. And that applies to Hamlin, who was perhaps most strident in his post-race criticism.
“Denny’s a very emotional person,” Harvick said. “I would consider Denny a fair acquaintance. I don’t consider too many of 'em my friends, because we get in situations like this. He’s a very opinionated person. He’s going to stand behind what he believes—and that’s fair.
“I don’t’ think anybody can knock him for that. I’m not going to sit here and throw stones, because I’ve been mad at situations. ... I was mad at a situation with him last week.”