With 35 laps to go at the Bristol night race, Kevin Harvick passed Chase Elliott for the lead. They made contact, which cut Elliott’s tire. When Elliott returned to the track, he raced Harvick hard to get one of his laps back. Once he did that, he blocked Harvick’s line on the track, which slowed Harvick down enough that Kyle Larson — Elliott’s teammate — caught and passed him for the lead and went on to win the race.
Harvick and Elliott got in a verbal confrontation after the race. Harvick called Elliott’s block a “chicken-s--- move.” Said Elliott: “I don’t care who he is or how long he’s been doing it. I’m going to stand up for myself and my team.”
The feud continued the following weeks, with Harvick comparing talking to Elliott with talking to a nine-year-old — a situation with which Harvick is intimately familiar, as that’s his son Keelan’s age. “They get hung up on one thing, and you can’t speak to them about the broader picture,” Harvick said.
Harvick dumped Elliott the week after that and said “sometimes real life teaches you good lessons.”
The details were different but the broader picture was the same: Harvick was in another feud. Controversy has followed the driver of the No. 4 Ford since he debuted at NASCAR’s top level in 2001. Bleacher Report ran a multi-part series called “The Many Feuds of Kevin Harvick,” and that was 13 years ago; he has added plenty more since. “I love the controversy,” he told reporters in 2014 after he pushed Brad Keselowski toward Jeff Gordon during a post-race argument in Texas. “In the end, the difficult part for me is to go home and realize one day you’re going to have to answer those questions to your son.”
These are some feuds Keelan might ask about:
At Pocono in 2010, contact from Harvick sent Logano spinning. The two argued after the race, and in a TV interview, Logano dropped one of the most famous quotes in NASCAR history: “I don’t know what his deal is with me, but it’s probably not his fault. His wife wears the firesuit in the family and tells him what to do.”
The Harvicks created t-shirts with the quote, with the proceeds going to their foundation. Kevin’s wife, Delana, sent one to Logano’s wife when the Loganos got married.
Harvick’s winking, dimply smiles as he drops one-liners to fan the flames of these feuds suggest that to some extent, he is playing a role — agitating other drivers on purpose to try to distract them. “Games are played every day,” Logano said amid the Elliott controversy. “When you’re out there racing for a win, it’s a battle from every standpoint, whether it’s on track or off track. And that ratchets up. Kevin has been known to be that guy at times.”
Do Harvick’s mind games work? “I’d be nervous,” Logano said. “It could really affect how things go.”
Both California natives, Johnson and Harvick have been friends for years. When they were trying to break into NASCAR, they slept on couches in the home of Ron Hornaday, a NASCAR veteran.
But that friendship has had rough patches. Johnson said Harvick should be fired in 2005 after Harvick wrecked Johnson in a preseason race at Daytona. In 2015 at Chicago, Johnson showed up at Harvick’s motorcoach to try to talk to him after an on-track incident that day. Harvick punched him in the chest.
Harvick’s respect for Johnson was obvious and the source of the most famous incident in their rivalry. In 2010, after Johnson outdueled Harvick for a win at California, Harvick said Johnson and his team had a “golden horseshoe stuck up their (expletive).”
Years later, Harvick sort of regretted his choice of words. “They weren’t lucky,” he said. “They were just fast.”
In 2008, Harvick called Edwards a “pansy” after Edwards rode around in the back during a race at Talladega. Edwards was hoping to avoid the carnage of Talladega and instead triggered a wreck that collected Harvick.
Edwards posted a sarcastic thank-you note to Harvick’s plane, and later they got into a physical confrontation that ended when one of Harvick’s friends dragged Edwards away in a headlock. “I have absolutely no respect for Kevin Harvick,” Edwards told reporters in 2010. “I think he’s a bad person.”
When Harvick was younger, he sometimes came off as a cocky punk. After Ricky Rudd wrecked him in Richmond in 2003, he climbed onto Rudd’s car to confront him. Asked what Harvick said, Rudd replied, “I couldn’t hear him. He’s got that little yap-yap mouth.”
In the two decades since, that little yap-yap mouth has run afoul of many drivers.