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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Harvick vs. Logano … the verbal battle royale continues at MIS

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- In the red corner, a young hotshot driver whose talent is recognized by all, but who many drivers think needs to have more respect for his elders.

In the blue corner, a 10-year veteran who doesn’t think that a 20-year-old should be acting in such an impetuous manner to a driver of his stature.

This is the tale of the tape in the renewed rivalry of Harvick vs. Logano.

Ding. Ding. Ding. … Will this fight continue Sunday at Michigan International Speedway?

Words were flying at breakneck speed Friday at Michigan Speedway – from the two drivers involved as well as their competitors, and the verdict was far from unanimous.

I remember the first time I saw Joey Logano in the Cup garage two years ago, shortly after his 18th birthday. Still full of acne, he looked like what he was – an awkward teen trying to fit in.

On Friday at MIS, he looked nothing like that. As he spoke confidently to reporters in the garage area about this controversy, you could tell that after two years in the sport, he feels like he belongs and has every right to run hard against veterans like Harvick every Sunday.

He did not apologize for confronting Harvick, and did not take back any words he said, including that now famous “firesuit” comment that mentioned Harvick’s wife Delana.”

“I said how I feel about it and I’m moving on from it. It is what it is. Right now, we’re trying to make the Chase and that’s our main priority. I take nothing back,” he said. “I’m a man of my word. I said what I had to and that’s it.”

Many drivers were supportive of Harvick.
“I don’t think Harvick did anything terribly wrong,” said Kurt Busch, who was famously taught a lesson by Jimmy Spencer at MIS early in his career when he got punched in the face. “He was a veteran teaching a young driver the ways of the world. It happened to me early in my career, and it elevated my game.”

Logano did have his backers, such as Mark Martin, saying it happened in part because of how strong Logano is running.
“The confrontations with Biffle and Logano happened because he was running against them real hard, not real easy. It might irritate you because Joey Logano shouldn’t be able to run side-by-side with me for 10 laps.”

The dad issue
Martin – whose son Matt played hockey and was involved in racing -- also said he loved that Joey’s dad, Tom Logano, was out on the track urging his son to confront Harvick.
“I loved seeing Tom Logano’s reaction. And I’m a dad,” Martin said. “Anybody who would criticize that, a lot of them aren’t dads.”

On that point, he was definitely in the minority.
Matt Kenseth, whose son Ross is a racecar driver, said the father has no place in this.
“If you’re old enough to be out racing with adults, you’re got to be able to take care of that yourself. It’s part of learning, growing up.”

Harvick was a little more blunt about the issue of Tom Logano.
“There’s a big step to be taken … shedding the dad. Those things don’t need to happen. He’s responsible for his own career.

“His dad shoved him into a pile like a dog chasing after a bone. His father has no place in this. His father needs to act like all of the rest of the dads, and be happy that his kid's here,” he said. "This isn't Little League baseball anymore. He just needs to stay away and act like a 50-year-old man, or however old he is."

Logano defended his dad, saying he’s just doing what any dad would do.
“I love him to death and he’s there for me,” Joey said. “So I think that’s something that’s really cool and a lot of people don’t have that. He’s always been by my side my whole life and maybe it was a position that maybe he shouldn’t have been there, but he’s a father and I bet 99 percent of the fathers would’ve been there anyway.”

Logano denied accusations by the 29 team that he put their crew in danger on pit road, and says he thinks the T-shirt the Harvicks are selling, which reads “I wear the firesuit in this family,” is pretty funny.

So is retaliation coming?

Martin said that if he was Harvick, he would assume it will come eventually, but that he knows Joey and doesn’t think Logano will do anything.
“If I was Harvick and didn’t know Logano, I would say yes. But I think Logano has enough integrity to continue to try to make that right without doing. If I’m Harvick, I figure I’ve got one coming.”

In perhaps the strangest moment of the day, Harvick took a shot at Martin, saying “Mark and the Loganos are buddies, so he’s on whatever side is convenient for him this week” … I can honestly say that’s the first time I’ve heard any of the drivers take a shot at Mark Martin.

Why is Harvick mad?
Harvick – who said he recognizes that Joey is a talented racecar diver who deserves to be in Cup and is going to have a long career -- broke down to the media on Friday why he is upset with Logano.

“We had the issues at Bristol. We raced for 40 laps -- Chop chop chop chop chop. We get done at Bristol, his dad has physical contact with one of my PR people. I go to Nashville. I tell him, ‘Alright, Joey, the best thing you can do is get your dad under control.’ And he turned around, laughed at me, and said, ‘Do you really think that was a big deal’. At that point, he doesn’t want to take any advice and talk about things.”

Harvick went on to say that Logano also ran into his car at Phoenix and Richmond, both prior to the controversial incident last week in Pocono

Because of this pattern by Logano, “That’s how you got to race him,” Harvick said Friday.
“Racing is one thing, not chopping and blocking.”

Harvick admitted he has said plenty of things in the past that he shouldn’t have said, “I’m not an angel,” but that Logano’s comment about his wife Delana wearing the firesuit in the family was over the line.

“It’s right on the edge of making it personal,” Harvick said. “I don’t think he really wants to get into that. That would be a lot worse for him than jut handling it man to man and doing it the right way.”

Logano said he had to confront Harvick because the Pocono incident was the last straw, after several instances where Harvick had disrespected him on the track. “Enough is enough. After 2 or 3 of them I kind of had enough of that.”

As to how long it will take until he can have some respect for Harvick, Logano said: “It will probably take a long time.”

Biffle, others chime in
Greg Biffle has also had his run-ins with Logano, and was very blunt in his criticism of Logano.

“It seems like he’s the common denominator in the deal. So it might be some of his doing, if I had to guess. I’ve had a few run-ins. There’s times when you race, and there’s times when you give,” Biffle said.

“I watched the Nationwide race (at Bristol) and watched him chop off Harvick for 15 laps. I knew that was only going to go on for so long. You’re going to have a problem eventually. Last lap, he has a problem, and he has no clue. If you don’t understand why, you’ve got a serious problem. If you mirror-drive someone for 10 laps, they’re going to put you in the fence. That’s the way it is. He’s in the mirror for a reason.”

He went on to detail some of the trouble he’s had with Logano.
“At Kansas, he door-slammed me and felt like there was nothing wrong with that. He’ll figure it out sooner or later. He’s a great racecar driver, Lots of talent. He’ll come around.”

Logano insisted he doesn’t do the chopping and blocking Harvick and Biffle mentioned, and is just racing hard.
“I try to be good with the give and take,” Logano said. “At the end of the race, you should be able to race.”

Carl Edwards did not comment on the Harvick-Logano fight, saying “That’s between them.” But he did say that drivers should stand up for themselves.
“When we had an issue with someone, you address it. You can’t just let it be,” he said. “What’s different now is it’s on television. And some people use the media to turn the situation to their advantage. It makes it hard for a driver to decide what to do.

Some drivers indicated they had no problem with Logano’s driving style, such as Jeff Gordon. He said, “I haven’t had any issues with Joey I feel like when he’s competitive he’s aggressive and does what he needs to do. When he’s not, he’s respectful.”

Gordon said he prefers to settle beefs like this quickly, so it doesn’t affect him later in the year.
“I don’t want it to linger, because I don’t want it to affect me at a time that’s important,” he said.

Kyle Busch stuck up for his teammate, saying: “You have to turn into the corner. Kevin Harvick went straight.”

He added, though, that the Joe Gibbs drivers aren’t dirty drivers who want to take a bunch of guys out. “I don’t try to race dirty,” he said. “I might race hard, but I’m not out there to wreck anyone on purpose. I think Joey is a smarter race car driver than that and he’s not going to stoop to that level. Time will tell.”

Will the feud end?
As far as patching things up, Harvick said that his attempt at Nashville was blown off by Logano, it’s on Joey to decide how this thing will play out.
“I tried to break the ice once and help him with his dad and he laughed at me, and now look where we’re at,” he said.
“I’d love to work it out. It’s at that stage where it’s up to him what he wants it to go into. However he wants to play the game, I’m fine with it. I’ve been on both sides of it.”

So what does Joey say? Is the feud over?
“You never know. I’m not going to say it is, and I’m not going to say it’s not,” he said.

Stay tuned on Sunday to find out.


Keselowski, Edwards at peace?
Remember when Carl Edwards flipped Brad Keselowski, in a rivalry situation very similar to the Harvick-Logano deal? Well, that may all be over. After they raced each other last week for the win, Edwards came to victory lane to congratulate him.

Edwards said Friday said the past is behind them.
“Brad and I had our issues, but I did not mean to flip him into the fence. That’s behind us,” he said. “Brad and I get along just fine. I was just congratulating him like I would for anyone else.”

2 years since Dale Earnhardt Jr. won
On the 2-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last win, Mark Martin said that Jr. is doing everything he can to try to win, but it’s not that simple.

“It is really, really hard to win in this series, no matter how well you run. Just look at how well Jeff Gordon has run the first half of the season without getting a win. It is just amazing. In my eyes, Jr. is driving harder than any race car driver out there. I can see it clear as day how bad he wants it.”


Anonymous Richard in N.C. said...

I have disagreed with you on occasion in the past, but this is one of the very, very best, most complete articles I have read about the situation. Thank you.

It still looks to me like Happy outsmarted Joey L at Pocono - that he suspected Joey would chop down on him and wreck if Happy just held his line.

June 12, 2010 at 2:54 PM 
Blogger Matt Myftiu said...

Thanks for the kind words. It was pretty interesting listening to the driver comment on this one-by-one. Lots of interesting views.

And I don't think this feud will continue as a long-standing battle where they're crashing each other on track. Biffle's probably right, usually things just go back to normal. They still might not like each other, but the public fight may end sooner than many people think.

June 13, 2010 at 7:03 AM 

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