Harvick punches Johnson in chest following run-in during race

During a media event Thursday in Chicago, Kevin Harvick said he was going to stomp the four Joe Gibbs Racing cars into the ground in defense of his 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

But in the first round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, JGR swept the top two positions with Denny Hamlin winning over Carl Edwards, while Matt Kenseth was fifth and Kyle Busch ninth.

Meanwhile, Harvick’s championship defense got off to just about the worst possible start when a cut left-rear tire sent the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet spinning into the wall just past the halfway point of Sunday’s MyAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicago Speedway.

Afterward, an angry Harvick confronted Jimmie Johnson and punched him in the chest, blaming Johnson for the incident.

It was an ugly end to a difficult day for Harvick.

After running near the front for virtually all of the first half of the race, Harvick and Johnson had contact during a restart on Lap 134. On the restart, fifth-place Joey Logano pushed Johnson who was third, directly behind leader Harvick.

With the push from Logano, Johnson dove down to the track apron. When he came back up, the right side of Johnson’s car hit Harvick’s, with the SHR Chevrolet immediately showing smoke around the left-rear tire.

"Good God, what the hell is Logano doing?" Johnson asked crew chief Chad Knaus.

Four laps later, Harvick’s tire went down and he hit the wall, forcing him to take his car to the garage for repairs. After the SHR team worked on the car, Harvick came back out, ultimately winding up 42nd, 58 laps down.

Logano said he wasn’t the cause of the issue between the two Chevrolet drivers.

"I had nothing to do with that," Logano said. "The 48 (Johnson) went three-wide bottom and I was just sitting there. I was no part of it."   

Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, said he was unsure of exactly the cause of the incident.

"You know how it is, it’s hard racing, for sure," Childers told FOXSports.com. "But I don’t know if the 22 (Logano) had kind of got in the back of the 48 or what, kind of cocked him around and got him on the apron there.

"From there, it looked like it finally got to the point where Jimmie realized he couldn’t go in the corner on the apron," Childers added. "Right in front of us, he decided to go right and kind of body slammed us, there — messed our car up. It’s just so hard to tell. These left-side tires are so fragile. They blow out if you’ve got a half a pound of not enough air in them."