Jeff Gluck, NASCAR Scene
In NASCAR’s bygone days, a shoving match in the garage was like a dog-bites-man story. These days, it’s man-bites-dog – and then some. Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards engaged in a physical altercation inside the Nationwide Series garage on the opening day of Charlotte race weekend, adding a bit of spice to the 2008 Chase.
The two exchanged shoves, and photographs show that Edwards grabbed Harvick near the throat before being pushed onto the hood of Harvick’s race car. The incident ended when Harvick’s motorcoach driver Jeff Smith got Edwards in a headlock and pulled him away.
“You just gotta be careful who you wanna pick a fight with,” Harvick said a day later. “If you want to pick a fight with the wrong person, sometimes it turns around and bites you, no matter how big and tough you think you are.”
The groundwork for the disagreement was laid at Talladega, when Harvick sharply criticized Edwards after Edwards caused a multicar wreck that collected several Chase drivers.
Edwards had lagged toward the back of the field for most of the race before charging to the front. Harvick called Edwards a “pansy” for the strategy and suggested Edwards didn’t know how long the front of his car was since he hadn’t drafted all day.
Before he left the track, Edwards heard Harvick’s comments on television and wrote Harvick a profane note that said, “Kevin, thanks for [criticizing] me on T.V. I was really trying to screw up everyone’s day! Love, Carl.”
When the drivers arrived at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Edwards confronted Harvick in the Nationwide garage. Harvick tried to walk away, but Edwards grabbed his shoulder to turn him around, witnesses said.
The shoving ensued.
“Obviously, it’s pretty well-documented everything that happened,” Harvick said. “Best thing I can tell you is we were in our [garage] stall and just protected our turf.”
Harvick said he had never received a note from another driver, “not since about fifth grade.”
Reminded that Edwards probably wasn’t trying to cause a wreck since he was racing for a championship, Harvick shot back, “So are we.”
“I could give two [cents] who Carl Edwards is and what he’s in the race for,” Harvick said.
Edwards, for his part, tried to avoid addressing the situation. He said he preferred to focus on racing.
“We took care of that privately, I think that’s the right way to do that,” he said several hours after the incident. “Man-to-man, talk about stuff, make sure you understand how everybody feels.”
The next day, Edwards was similarly reluctant to discuss the issue.
“Nobody likes to deal with that stuff,” he said. “It’s nice to get in [the car] and do what we’re here to do, not the rest of this stuff.
“I am what I am, he is what he is. If those things are different, that’s fine, it doesn’t bother me.”
Edwards said he hoped that no matter how the drivers felt about one another off the track, nothing would change in regard to their on-track relationship. He pointed to a closely contested battle in Phoenix several years ago as proof.
“It was one of the neatest races I’ve ever been a part of,” Edwards said. “He’s always been like that, one of those guys you can race literally an inch from, and it’s awesome. I hope that doesn’t change.”
Harvick has a reputation as a prickly personality, shoving Juan Pablo Montoya at Watkins Glen last year and engaging in verbal battles with the Busch brothers, among others. Edwards, highly protective of his image, is known for being affable but aggressive – the video of him threatening to punch teammate Matt Kenseth last season showed another side of his personality.
The incident with Harvick may reinforce that, though it will likely only affect his image and not his Chase chances – NASCAR officials said they did not plan to penalize either of the drivers for the incident.
“It’s done,” Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash said. “From everything that we can tell there was just some heated conversation.”
Still, once the pictures were released two days after the fight, there was enough concern on NASCAR’s part to call both drivers to the hauler before the Cup race. Officials spoke to them and made sure there would not be any carryover onto the track.