Charlotte, N.C. — Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are not enemies. They have known each other since the early days of their careers, which began in California before the two crossed the country to North Carolina to take a crack at making it in NASCAR.
Broke and chasing big dreams, the two drivers born less than three months and 250 miles apart spent many a night crashing on a couch at Ron Hornaday Jr.’s house as they scratched and clawed for a break. They made it to Cup racing, becoming two of the biggest names in NASCAR along the way.
They always recognized the paths in their careers.
When Johnson, eliminated from contention last November from winning a seventh championship, had a chance to help Harvick win his first Sprint Cup title, he opened up his notebook and turned into one of Harvick’s most important weapons. After Harvick hoisted that championship trophy at the end of last season, he took time to credit the help he and crew chief Rodney Childers received from Johnson the entire weekend leading into the title-deciding final race.
“I felt like I was racing — practicing a little more amped than I probably needed to be, and Jimmie Johnson was a huge help,” Harvick said after his win. “He’d show up in the trailer after every practice and called and texted to Rodney and myself. You pull the data up, and I was making some pretty huge mistakes. So that eased my mind going into the day.”
Fast forward to this week, when Harvick’s chances at winning a second consecutive title are shaky and his relationship with Johnson is suddenly strained. He shoved Johnson in the chest with a closed fist and had to be restrained from going after him again following a devastating performance last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
It was all so Harvick.
The instigator of the Sprint Cup Series, the driver who has never backed down from anyone or any situation dating all the way back to his roller-coaster 2001 debut season, will not go down quietly.
Johnson knew this the moment their cars touched around the midway point of the opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. They were third and fourth on a restart, and a push from Joey Logano had shoved Johnson to the apron of the track. He had to get back onto the racing surface, and when he tried, Harvick’s car was right there.
A full day later, both drivers likely think they could have done something differently.
Tony Gibson, Kurt Busch’s crew chief, had an emergency appendectomy. He posted Wednesday on Facebook he was home and resting a day after the procedure.
Stewart-Haas Racing said Gibson plans to be at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Sunday’s race.