Bayne still believes Harvick dumped him on purpose at 'Dega
After Kevin Harvick ran into Trevor Bayne, triggering a multi-car wreck at the end of last Sunday's Chase-elimination race at Talladega Superspeedway, Bayne said he thought the contact was a deliberate attempt by Harvick to salvage a decent finish and keep his championship hopes alive.
Six days later, Bayne hasn't changed his mind.
Speaking with FOXSports.com in an exclusive interview Saturday morning in the Martinsville Speedway garage, Bayne explained in great detail his vantage point of the end-of-race scenario that saw Harvick, whose engine was going sour, pull up out of the way on the first of two late restarts, but then stay in line on the second and final restart.
"A lot of times at superspeedways you kind of see the wrecks happen in front of you and you know it's kind of coming, but with that one on the restart going 70 miles per hour, you don't expect to crash that early," Bayne told FOXSports.com on Saturday morning. "I didn't know what the 4 (Harvick) was going to do. It was going to be unpredictable on the second restart. On the first restart I knew — they said they were going to go to the top, get out of the way and I'd be fine so I could go right through. Ten car lengths before the restart zone he pulled to the top and everything was fine, and then the next (restart), I was like, 'Man, they've got a different strategy here. I don't know what it is, but it's different.'
"They weren't communicating the same way, and then they kind of said, 'We're going to stay in line,' and I was like, 'Well, this is going to be a disaster, but I've got to get around him. I can't fall back to 30th here on the restart.' "
Moments later, Bayne and Harvick collided, when Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy moved up the track into the path of Bayne's Roush Fenway Racing Ford that was whizzing by.
"I timed the restart and got to his bumper and when I realized there was no chance he was going to go, I pulled to the high side, he was still in line, I got to his door, he started coming up, I went all the way out, and then he just hooked us," Bayne said. "After first it was like, 'How did that just happen?' At first I didn't know if somebody had piled into the back of him and run him up into me, or what had happened. But then after going back and watching, it wasn't that complicated."
Although Harvick has said he did not mean to cause a wreck, and NASCAR on Tuesday issued a statement saying there would be no penalties for Harvick or his team following a review of "an extensive amount of material . . . including video, team radio transmissions and downloadable data," Bayne remains convinced Harvick's ill-timed move was intentional.
"To me, there's a lot of things you could say were ... just the fact of it was pretty convenient," Bayne said. "It was really convenient. I don't know. There were a lot of coincidences. But normally with drivers, if you make a mistake, you call a guy and say, 'Hey, man, sorry about that.' But when you don't get that call, when you watch it and you see what you see — everybody's going to make their own judgments on it — but, to me, I've said from the beginning I believe it was intentional.
"He's a great driver. We're all going to make mistakes, but I don't believe that was a mistake."
"It's hard to talk to people after the race," Bayne said. "They're all heated and defensive and you're not going to get anything accomplished, so that's not normally the motto for me. But I just went by and said I knew he needed a caution, but I didn't expect him to get it that way."
Now that Bayne has had a few days to ruminate on the wreck, he's become less surprised by Harvick's aggression in that situation.
"That's not the first time I've been wrecked by him," he said. "I forget pretty easily what happens on the racetrack because I try not to carry it with me ... but since this has happened a lot of people have come by and reminded me, 'Hey, remember that time at Richmond he dumped you just because. Remember that time at Bristol he dumped you just because,' and I'm like, 'Man, he has wrecked me a lot.' So (Talladega) is not atypical for that, I guess, but he's racing for a championship and that could have been the end of it, so I don't know. You hope for more, for the integrity of our sport."
As for how Bayne plans to race Harvick going forward — beginning with Sunday's event at Martinsville, a .526-mile short track — the 2011 Daytona 500 winner chose his words carefully, stopping short of saying he might attempt retaliation.
"I don't know," Bayne said with a smile. "I don't plan on anything, really. I don't race around him that often. If our car's good enough, then, I don't know. We'll just see what happens and then if it's bad enough that we're getting lapped, I don't know. We'll just see. I wouldn't be watching for it on TV or anything."