The hands have been dealt, the cards have been played, and…. it looks like the game is officially over.
On Thursday, a report from Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press states that NASCAR hosted a phone call on Wednesday between Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, and the other parties involved in the rivalry between the two NASCAR Cup Series champions, which began at Bristol Motor Speedway in September and carried over to last Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400.
Fryer cites that NASCAR warned all parties of “serious consequences” should the rivalry continue, adding that she was told NASCAR did all of the talking, on a call of at least six people.
#NASCAR had a call yesterday with all parties in the Harvick-Elliott feud and warned of serious consequences should it continue. (Am told NASCAR did all the talking on a call of at least six people)
— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) October 14, 2021
The interception by the sanctioning body comes less than one week following the events of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL, where Kevin Harvick appeared to flat-out dump the defending series champion during the final race of the second round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Of course, Harvick’s ‘plan’ didn’t exactly work out as anticipated, between an incredible rebound by the Hendrick Motorsports team and a late-race accident by Harvick eliminated the No. 4, rather than the No. 9.
After the accident, some comments on the radio of the Hendrick Motorsports team outlined the intent to pay back Harvick if the opportunity presented itself, which it almost did before Harvick overcooked it into turn one, a rare mistake for the veteran driver.
Alan Gustafson – Elliott’s crew chief — can be heard saying: “If we get a chance, we can wreck him and it will lock us in.”
Elliott then replied to his crew chief with: “Don’t you worry.”
Eddie D’Hondt – spotter on the No. 9 — chimed in further with: “Oh, it’s going to happen.”
The radio communications following the accident can be seen/heard on NASCAR on FOX’s Radioactive, around 2:50.
Obviously, the post-race comments weren’t as intense, but they were just as amusing, as both Elliott and Harvick had tongue-in-cheek responses during NBC’s post-race interviews. In fact, Elliott’s response of wishing Harvick and his team a “Merry Offseason and Happy Christmas,” not only made it onto the sign at the Dawsonville Pool Room but also inspired the driver’s newest piece of merchandise.
— Dawsonville Pool Room (@DawsonPoolRoom) October 11, 2021
…But, Why Step In Between Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott, now?
So the question remains, why did NASCAR decide to step in and intercept what could have been a potentially captivating rivalry as the series approaches its final four weeks of competition? Well, that’s a good question, that there isn’t necessarily a straightforward answer to.
In the past, NASCAR has had feuds between drivers carry over into the series’ final set of events.
In 2012, Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer in the penultimate race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, after growing frustrations between the pair. At that point, Bowyer wasn’t necessarily in an optimal position to capture the championship but sat 28 points behind eventual champion Brad Keselowski when Gordon decided to take action in the closing laps of the event.
Just three seasons later, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano carried a beef throughout a great deal of the playoffs, starting with contact between the two drivers in the closing laps at Kansas, which eliminated Matt Kenseth’s chance of winning. Things continued to boil over at Talladega after Joey Logano pulled in front of Kenseth entering pit road.
Things progressed even further after Matt Kenseth intentionally wrecked Joey Logano – from the lead — at Martinsville, which ultimately hindered his chances of advancing to Homestead. The kicker was that Kenseth had been eliminated from the playoffs the week before, meaning a non-playoff driver had changed the outcome of the playoffs.
There is no guarantee that Harvick has additional retaliation on his mind and no guarantee that he won’t still do it anyway, despite the threat of serious consequences. However, the idea that a situation could occur where a non-playoff driver affects the championship aspirations of a playoff driver – especially being the sport’s most popular driver — probably makes the sanctioning body nervous.
But really, would this phone call have happened if the rivalry was between Harvick and Kyle Busch, or Martin Truex Jr, or any of the other playoff drivers?