Drivers frustrated by 'Boys, have at it'
13 May 2011
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are still engaging in a sniping war of words over their highly public clash at Darlington, but Harvick - like Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman - is equally exasperated about the lack of clarity over the rules from NASCAR itself.
"I don't mind wrecking," Harvick said. "I don't mind getting wrecked. I don't mind eye for an eye. I don't mind any of that. But just tell me what the rules are. Explain to me what the penalty is ... If you are going to retaliate, what is the penalty? Tell me what the penalty is. A consistent answer."
Central to the driver's frustration is the new NASCAR policy of 'Boys, have at it' which has been taken to mean that when it comes to on-track incidents, the drivers should more or less police themselves and not expect NASCAR to step in and babysit.
"I'm kinda confused by it now," confessed Tony Stewart. "I guess I am waiting for a definition of what is it. It's like 'Boys, have at it' ... from what to what? Where do they want us to go with it? Where is the line in the sand?
"Nobody really has defined what the line in the sand is yet, so none of us really know what we are supposed to do, or what we are allowed to do, what are we not allowed to do, where are we allowed to do it ... what's acceptable and not acceptable?"
Thinking about NASCAR's application of penalties to Harvick and Busch, Stewart continued: "Don't tell us to have at it and then start fining us when nobody really knows where the line is. If we know where the line is, guys probably are not going to go over it quite as much. You have to at least know where that line is
Stewart's team mate Ryan Newman - who was involved in an on-track clash with Juan Montoya the previous week that led to off-track confrontation - also said he was in the dark.
"I don't know exactly how it's always been versus how it is. I know that there are times when there are things that are public and there are times when things are private ... I can only speculate how it should be." He confessed with a smile that "Honestly, I'm kind of new to the bad boy market!"
Meanwhile Jimmie Johnson - who this week was named the US's most influential athlete of 2011 in a poll commissioned by Forbes Magazine - suggested that the confusion was more fundamental than just discussion about penalties and one or two specific incidents: "It's real easy one week to say, 'Oh well, it's too vanilla out there; it's too boring and these guys don't rough each other up and back in the day this or that would happen.'", he said. "And then damn if we don't go to the next race and all that happens and now you've got to write the opposite of that. So I think we're all confused. What do we really want? Does anybody know? It changes every week."
Clint Bowyer was against any attempts to nail down the meaning of 'Boys, have at it'. "No, we're all professionals," he said. "I think good old common sense solves a lot of that. Retaliation and things like that, like I said, it's been in racing ever since I started back in Kansas in a Street Stock car; that's the nature of the beast when you're racing as close as we are, as hard as we are and you're as passionate about what you do. When you put other people in danger is when things get out of hand ... Obviously that could have been a bad thing on pit road."
But Harvick was in broad agreement with Stewart and Newman. "If you're going to hook somebody in the middle of the straightaway, if you're going to spin them out, if you're going to retaliate, what is the penalty? Tell me what the penalty is. And they didn't tell me a consistent answer."
Of course, the state of relations being what they are between Harvick and Busch, Kyle just had to have a different view of it. "I understand it perfectly, actually," Busch said. "To me, it's not a grey area. It's pretty simple. It's black and white.
"The 'Boys, have at it' happens on the race track. They allow us to police ourselves pretty simply out there. But when matters get taken into the drivers' hands on pit road and innocent bystanders can be injured, NASCAR's going to step in and set penalties."
Harvick disputed Busch's clear-cut view, pointing out that a meeting on Thursday between the two drivers and NASCAR had left a different impression. "Last week, they stressed a lot to me that the penalties were for pit road violations after the race and the jeopardy that it put everybody in after the race, and I understand that part. Yesterday it was all about being on probation and on the race track. So just a little bit confused about that."
And of course, Harvick and Busch were still bickering about the original incident on Saturday night at Darlington. Harvick dismissed Kyle Busch's account that he had a flat tyre on lap 363 that caused him to hook Harvick into a spin, rather than it being retaliation. "It's kind of one lie after another [from Busch] and you see everything that happened after the race," said Harvick.
"Believe that for what it's worth," Busch protested, pointing out that "I did have to come to pit road during that caution period to change left side tires because they were flat.
"As far as us getting along, I'm not sure we ever really did ... At Homestead, I talked about the two-faced Kevin Harvick. And I believe that's out there. He'll talk to your face like you're best friends, but behind closed doors, he has the utmost disrespectful thoughts or whatever else."
The two are due to race in Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race; Kevin Harvick qualified in second place for the race at Dover's Monster Mile, while Kyle Busch will start on the row behind in third. The two are under NASCAR probation which means that they will have to watch their step or face further sanction; both drivers say that they'll leave the feud behind them at the green flag.
"For me, it's done, it's over with," Harvick said. "We'll move on."
"That's all," Busch concurred. "I don't care."
And of course, we all believe that, and don't expect any further fireworks between the two on track this weekend at Dover, no sir.