CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — First, Kevin Harvick embarrassed the field with a dominating victory at Dover.
Then his victory celebration made some of his competitors wonder if the reigning Sprint Cup champion had something to hide.
Many believe Harvick backed his car into the wall during his celebratory burnout perhaps in an intentional attempt to create damage to his Chevrolet that would limit NASCAR’s ability to do a proper post-race inspection.
Harvick on Tuesday denied any knowledge of hitting the wall.
“I did?” he asked. “I didn’t even know.”
When told that a conspiracy was potentially brewing — and growing on social media — Harvick seemed unconcerned and chalked it up as competition doing “what they’re supposed to do — they’re supposed to try and create commotion.”
“I don’t actually remember hitting the wall,” he said. “I remember the tires blowing out, but I don’t know if I actually hit the wall. These things are hard to win and I enjoy celebrating, and I’m going to burn the tires off for sure.”
Brad Keselowski said Tuesday it was “absolutely” common for drivers to intentionally damage their cars after a race. Denny Hamlin called on NASCAR to figure out a way to keep cars intact for the technical inspection that occurs after a car is returned to North Carolina for a thorough review at the research and development center.
“You don’t want to discredit anyone’s win because what he did was really, really impressive,” Hamlin said. “But all the other competitors, whoever doesn’t win each week wants to make sure they’re on a level playing field with whoever did win. Going forward, I would like to see some kind of way of insuring our cars all stay intact for the R&D Center. Because right now, the R&D Center is kind of a moot point if guys tear up their cars.”
Harvick led 581 laps in the first three Chase races, but he crashed in the opener at Chicago and ran out of gas while headed to the win at New Hampshire. It backed him into a must-win situation at Dover, a track where he had never before won a Cup race.
He dominated the race Sunday and easily grabbed the win he needed to advance into the second round of the Chase.
Kyle Busch declined — sort of — to speculate on Harvick’s intent during his victory celebration, saying with an exaggerated eye roll, “Sometimes when you’re in a burnout and you’re in the smoke, you can’t see where you’re at.”