Craig Murto: Harvick should grow up

Kevin Harvick needs to grow up, or at least stay out of the Xfinity Series.

The former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion consistently acts like a spoiled 12-year-old. For all the goodwill he gains with fans in any one week, or gains by supporting local short tracks, he makes sure he loses it only a couple weeks later by acting like a child.

It was wonderful to see Harvick support local tracks this year by entering events he didn’t have to, such as K&N Pro Series races in his home state of California. And it was heartwarming a few weeks ago when Harvick took his young son with him on a victory lap following a race win. It’s just the type of tender family moment we want to see.

But last weekend at Darlington he once again showed his true colors, this time destroying any chance Ross Chastain had of winning the Xfinity race. Then Harvick’s actions and comments afterward demonstrated his lack of maturity.

Chastain, who has over 200 NASCAR starts in both the Xfinity and Cup series, always “overachieves” in low-budget equipment, observed Dale Earnhardt Jr. But Chastain won the first two stages of Darlington’s Xfinity Series race behind the wheel of the Chip Ganassi No. 42, the best car he’s ever driven. The 25-year-old racer fended off challenges by many top drivers, including Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

As the final stage started, Chastain again battled the two former Cup champions. After fending off the challenge of Keselowski, Harvick took his shot. But Harvick drove as if his attitude were “who does this guy think he is not letting me by?”

Harvick dived to the inside of Chastain as they raced past a lapped car. Harvick got loose, went up the track and planted Chastain in the fence. Chastain came off the wall and hooked Harvick’s right-rear quarter panel, sending Harvick spinning into the fence, ending his day.

Harvick drove as if he expected Chastain to simply give him the position uncontested, as if he deserved it just for being there. Dale Jarrett in the broadcasting booth made the same observation. And, noting that it appeared Chastain may have intentionally hooked Harvick’s car after being put in the wall, Jarrett noted that he “can’t fault him for that.” In fact, it may have impressed car owner Chip Ganassi favorably, as it showed Chastain won’t allow himself to be pushed around.

Harvick parked his damaged car in in Chastain’s pit, pretending he couldn’t get it restarted, only moving it after a stern warning from NASCAR officials. Then Harvick made sure that he took to Twitter to state that Chastain doesn’t deserve any more chances in good equipment and doesn’t belong there.

Sorry, Harvick, but you’re the clown who jumped up and down like a deranged lunatic on Ricky Rudd’s hood after a race at Richmond. And you’re the instigator who, like some middle school bully, pushed another driver into a physical altercation over an incident that was none of your business. Your tantrum means little.

And that’s something I hope NBC keeps in mind. Harvick leaves a lot of fans sour, especially after he helps fuel the debate that Cup drivers shouldn’t be in the Xfinity Series at all. By destroying an underdog’s chances and acting like a 12-year-old afterward, Harvick’s easily dismissed. Few want to hear what he has to say.

Chastain was David, Harvick was Goliath. Goliath expected David to simply roll over and play dead. When David fought back, Goliath had a temper tantrum. Maybe Hunt Brothers will sell more pizza if they support Chastain.

Harvick had every right to challenge for the lead. But Chastain had more than every right to defend the position. Harvick knew that he was putting his car in a bad spot, and that if Chastain didn’t give the position up he’d have to back out of the gas. Instead, Harvick – the former Cup champion driving in the Xfinity race — kept his foot in it and wound up wrecking Chastain, because Chastain – the talented young racer given his best opportunity — didn’t quit. The wreck was Harvick’s fault, Harvick’ own poor judgment. It might have been “just racing” if it were not for the spoiled brat routine afterward. Maybe it’s time for Kevin Harvick to keep his childish tantrums out of the Xfinity Series.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.