Kevin Harvick made at least two drivers angry with the way he raced last weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
But neither Todd Bodine nor Ryan Newman are his opponents for the feud of the week.
Instead, it’s Kevin Harvick vs. Kevin Harvick. No, that’s not a typo.
Harvick’s scrapes with other drivers often come as a result of his own demons that overtake him sometimes when he races.
He lashes out at other drivers and he also lashes out at his own crew.
Is Harvick a bully or just the consummate, intense competitor?
That may always be the question with Harvick. Whether his attitude comes back to haunt him – again – sometime this season remains to be seen.
“I turn into this lunatic when I get in the car and I wind up apologizing more than I do anything else,” Harvick said after winning back-to-back Cup races at Auto Club Speedway and then Martinsville.
“But I just get in this mind frame that I just can’t get out of while I’m in that race car and that’s all I can think about and that’s all I want to do is do good for our sponsors and for our team.
“That’s really what it’s all about. You just turn into this crazed animal; I can’t explain it.”
It’s that crazy part of him that other drivers believe results in a lack of patience on the track.
Contact with Ryan Newman at Martinsville resulted in a flat tire for Newman, and Newman later gave Harvick a few shoves with his bumper. Those shoves weren’t designed to make Harvick spin out, but sometimes that’s an unintended consequence.
Newman was just mad that Harvick wasn’t even courteous enough to apologize.
“He drove into me and never apologized, so I checked him up and made him realize he should have said at least, ‘Sorry.’ I assume he didn’t do it on purpose,” Newman said. “We usually have a little more courtesy than that. That’s all.”
In the euphoria after the victory, Harvick said he didn’t even remember making contact with Newman.
“I didn’t know I had contact with Newman,” Harvick said. And then Harvick couldn’t help himself as he added: “He was on seven cylinders in the way.”
It’s that kind of attitude – some call it aggressive racing, others consider it disrespectful bullying – that will help make Harvick a champion. Or, if he does it to the wrong people, cost him a championship.
A day earlier, Harvick spun Bodine in the truck race.
“The guy just doesn’t even try to pass you,” Harvick said. “He just runs into the back of you. And I wasn’t in the mood for it today, so I just returned the favor.”
Bodine said he knew Harvick would retaliate against him.
“He’s short-tempered. He’s like me,” Bodine said. “You’re racing hard and you think somebody runs into you on purpose and they don’t. … You think he’d know better, [but] that’s the way he thinks.”
But as much as the retaliation and aggravating other drivers could cause him problems in future races, it’s Harvick who needs to make sure more that his crew is happy and behind him.
Earlier this year, he suggested his team might want to fire its pit crew coach. He’s been known to belittle his crew members as well.
“We are all just a bunch of sarcastic smart asses,” Harvick said. “That’s really the only way we know to communicate with each other. We can’t communicate like normal people. We have to be sarcastic and smart alecks.”
Is that really a line of communication that could win a championship, especially with four people needing to be on the radio – Harvick, crew chief Gil Martin, spotter Billy O’Dea and team owner Richard Childress?
“I know when Richard [Childress] comes on the radio and says, ‘All right, you need to do this or that,’ I’ve kind of carried it over the edge and I need to shut up and go about my business,” Harvick said.
“Because at that point I need to get back to focusing on my job. But you know, I just – I’m just the highest-strung person.”
Does Harvick have enough of a support system to help him control his temper and attitude as the pressure of a Cup championship wears on? We could find out in October and November this year.