Like Logano, feud with Harvick is budding
It’s time to keep a scorecard.
To hear NASCAR points leader Kevin Harvick tell it, there’s a new Eddie Haskell in town, under the guise of 20-year-old Joey Logano.
The problem is Logano doesn’t know why Harvick placed a target on his bumper.
“That’s something that I was confused about all week,” Logano said. “I was sitting there thinking I don’t know what I did to make him so mad. I don’t know. I can’t figure it out.”
Harvick has the answer. He chronicled several incidents between the run-in at Bristol in the Nationwide Series — he said Logano was “fired up” and “chop, chop, chop, chop, chopped” him for 40 laps — and last Sunday’s altercation, which occurred when the pair was “going for the same spot” in the closing laps at Pocono.
Logano received the bad end in both of the dust-ups, but here’s the rest of the story: Following the Bristol incident, Harvick says Logano’s father had a run-in with one of his public relations representatives. At Nashville the next week, Harvick told Logano to keep his father “under control.” According to Harvick, Logano simply laughed and asked, “Do you really think that was a big deal?”
“Obviously, now it’s a big deal,” Harvick adds. “So at that particular point, I said obviously he really doesn’t want to take any advice and doesn’t want to talk about things any further than what he thinks is right.”
Harvick says the next altercation occurred in the Phoenix Cup race when “he crashed into the back of me and tries to spin me out down the straightaway,” but Harvick just blew it off.
Three weeks later at Richmond in the Nationwide event, Harvick said Logano dumped him on the final restart, which caused him to lose four or five positions. The veteran went to tell Logano how he felt. Things calmed down for six races until Pocono, where the competitors “raced hard,” according to Harvick, and “the same thing happened.”
“It all depends on how you want to race,” Harvick said. “Racing hard is one thing, but not chopping and blocking and not giving somebody a lane to race is a different thing.
“Joey Logano is a good race-car driver. He deserves to be here. He’s going to have a long career at this level. The hardest part to figure about this sport is how the politics work, how the on-track stuff works, and how to handle yourself as a race-car driver, and unfortunately he’s 20.”
Logano says his age shouldn’t matter. After all he’s been racing since he was 6. Logano says he tries “to be good with the give and take” until the closing laps.
“When it comes down to the end of the race, I feel like you should be able to race,” Logano said. “That’s what this is. That’s what NASCAR is, it's racing. And I know up to that point you’ve got to have give and take and you’ve got to go back and forth to earn that respect from these guys.”
Harvick says that earning respect comes with time and isn’t defined by “one particular instance.”
“I don’t think trying to cause a ruckus on pit road last week ... I don’t think that is going to define him not taking any more crap,” added Harvick, who said he’s not afraid of Logano taking a shot at him on the racetrack. “He’s had a couple of chances.”
On Friday, Harvick extended the olive branch to Logano. He’s willing to talk — just not in front of cameras and media on pit road.
“At this point it’s up to him. I’d love to work it out,” Harvick said. “Normally you have every opportunity to work it out with anybody in the garage. I feel like I can go to pretty much anybody in the garage and work something out. ...
“It’s up to him ... how he wants to play the game. I’m fine with the game. I’ve been on both sides of it.”
INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW
Jamie McMurray outqualified his former Roush Fenway Racing teammates on Friday.
For McMurray, who qualified second with a lap of 189.788 mph, it was a career-best effort. Prior to Friday, McMurray’s best attempt in Michigan time trials was 15th.
McMurray admits he doesn’t feel a distinct difference between the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolets and his Roush cars of last season. Even when he won the pole at Fontana in February, it was tough to distinguish a variance, just months removed from his Roush Ford.
“It does not take a lot to go from good to bad at this level,” McMurray said. “Even with our cars, we have practices where we don’t change very much and the car just goes to crap, and it’s not really drivable. It’s way off the pace, and you change something small and you’re right back there.
“I had a lot of people ask me that at Fontana after we sat on the pole, like, ‘What’s the difference?’ And even Matt (Kenseth) and Greg (Biffle) were like, ‘Can you tell anything?’ You really can’t tell any difference. The car just has more grip and the balance is just better and it just has more overall speed.”
Team owner Jack Roush has 11 wins at Michigan. However, it’s been Cup 17 races since his last victory anywhere — since McMurray won at Talladega in October. On Friday the top qualifying RFR driver was David Ragan, who posted the 14th fastest lap.
Although Roush’s veteran drivers Kenseth, Biffle and Carl Edwards put on brave faces each week, the questions and concerns regarding the company’s level of competition has started to wear on the trio.
Although nine of the Ford teams are sporting the new FR9 racing engine, Biffle admits power “is just one part of the equation.”
“This engine runs a little better after the corner,” Biffle said. “We were getting beat there before, but this engine has a tad bit better cooling and we can run a little more tape on the grill. On restarts it goes through the gears a little bit better.
“It is more about handling though. It doesn’t matter how much power you have if you don’t have the handling. It is one piece of the puzzle that will make us better.”
Considering what McMurray has been able to accomplish since moving on to Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, with two poles, one win, four top-fives and five top-10 finishes, it’s a testament to the caliber of drivers at Roush that Kenseth, Edwards and Biffle remain in the top 10 in the point standings.
“Those guys are really talented race-car drivers and they’ve had a lot of success over there,” McMurray said. “I know that it seems like they just can’t find what they need to get the speed out of those cars. When you get in a car that has more speed in it, it feels better everywhere. It’s not like it’s just the motor, or it’s just the entry to the corner, or the center, it just has more speed everywhere.
“So, I’m very shocked that they have not been able to get that turned around by now. When I left there last year I really thought in the first three or four races that they would hit on something that would make their cars faster. It just hasn’t gotten any better for them.”
A TALE OF THE TAPE
Brad Keselowski said after winning the Nationwide Series race at Nashville that he didn’t want an asterisk by the victory since Kyle Busch and Harvick were not in the field.
Given that both Busch and Harvick are contending for the Sprint Cup title, they have opted not to participate in the entire Nationwide schedule.
However, before Saturday night’s win at Nashville, Keselowski already was leading the point standings and had posted back-to-back victories at Talladega and Richmond.
“I want them to be here,” Keselowski said. “I want to beat them, and we have cars over here that are capable of beating them to where when we win, it’s driver and when we lose, it’s driver.”
When Busch replied to Keselowski’s post-race comments, he said, “Keselowski’s just running his mouth. Who’s got more wins? Come on.”
The answer? Busch, with five NNS wins.
Kurt Busch scored his first pole at Michigan in 19 attempts with a lap of 189.984 mph. Busch has earned two wins at MIS — first with Jack Roush in this race in 2003 and in the August romp for current owner Roger Penske in 2007.
Six Chevrolets were among the 10 top qualifiers.
Landon Cassill qualified 35th for his first Sprint Cup race with a time of 186.090 mph. Cassill is driving the No. 09 Chevrolet for James Finch.
Kasey Kahne was the fastest Ford in time trials with a lap of 189.623 mph. Kahne has the new FR9 engine and a Roush Fenway Racing front clip, but the cockpit on back is a former RPM car that last ran at Darlington.
When it comes to fuel strategy on Sunday — as is often the case at Michigan — crew chiefs will have to anticipate the possibility of three green-white-checkered attempts at the finish beyond the advertised 400 miles.
Kyle Busch defended Logano, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, claiming that Harvick simply “dumped” the No. 20 Toyota at Pocono. However, Busch doesn’t believe that Logano’s attempt to discuss the situation with Harvick left a lasting impression.
“I don’t think what he did shows anything,” Busch said. “I think what will show is if he retaliates; that’s what’s going to show. Driving up to somebody on pit road and running your mouth to him isn’t a whole lot; that’s not that difficult to do.”