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Not A Good Idea To Attack Power-Makers That Be

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, September 25 2015
Kevin Harvick may want to think about just who it is he is bullying. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Kevin Harvick may want to think about just who it is he is bullying. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Fact: Kevin Harvick would be a journeyman driver in need of anger-management classes instead of a defending Sprint Cup champion in need of anger-management classes were it not for the Hendrick Motrosports engines that sit in his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

bugopinionHe might want to consider that the next time he physically attacks one of Hendrick Motorsports’ in-house drivers for whatever reason.

I have long wondered about the politics and economics involved in the auto racing business of engine leasing. The kind that in which a successful team with a terrific engine department provides – for a price – machinery and technical assistance to teams which are competing against them on the track week in and week out.

Like, what do the engine-providing team owners tell the sponsors of their cars and drivers when they a beaten by an engine-leasing team? What do they tell their drivers? What do they tell their employees and fans?

After Tony Stewart won the Cup championship in 2011 and ended Jimmie Johnson’s five-year championship streak, I asked a Hendrick insider those very questions.

The insider explained that his company makes a profit from leasing engines to Stewart’s team and that to continue making that money, Stewart and co-owner Gene Haas need to know that they are getting engines, parts and pieces from the A bin.

So Lowe’s, which contributes 20-plus million dollars a season to Johnson’s 48 car didn’t get on the HMS bat phone and ask: What up? Johnson didn’t watch Stewart blow past him on race track after race track that year and ask his folks in Mooresville if, perhaps, they might want to go to the B bin a bit more often while crating up the engines stamped for delivery to Stewart-Haas?

The answer was a firm, “no”.

Though this defied logic, I deferred.

Until last Sunday and the broadcast of the Cup race and its aftermath at Chicagoland Speedway.

Cameras caught Johnson walking over to Harvick’s motorhome post race. Johnson’s body language seemed to convey that he was on his way to give his side of an incident during the race in which his HMS Chevrolet made contact with that of Harvick.

Harvick came out and immediately went after the six-time champion. He shoved Johnson backwards with an arm to the chest. Johnson retaliated with words. Harvick continued to go after Johnson and had to be restrained by an unidentified man, Harvick’s wife and finally a security man.

Johnson, apparently seeing no reason to try to reason with an obviously unreasoning Harvick, turned and walked away.

The interesting words came from the broadcast berth; from a guy who knows more than just a little bit about intra-sport protocol in general and Hendrick Motorsports business in particular – former long-time HMS crew chief Steve Letarte.

“You have to ask,” Letarte said, “Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have that (technical) alliance (which provides for engines and logistical assistance to Harvick’s team). What will this do to that alliance? Will this make tension between those two companies moving through the playoffs?”

The on-track incident, even though it wound up sending Harvick to the garages and a 42nd-place finish in the first race of the 10-race, 16-driver, elimination-format Chase, was just that – a racing incident. Two racers racing.

It was nothing to come to blows over.

And it was certainly nothing extraordinary enough to end up enraging the people who are bolting together your engines and drive trains.

Just ask Steve Letarte.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, September 25 2015


  • Tony Geinzer says:

    What’s good and bad is the big and bigger budget Superteam Car is Crashing. And, Stewart has no equity in Detroit in the Same Fashion Rick Hendrick does and it feels like every week Bobby Allison is taken out of Championship Contention by an R and D Team. (I know I am intertwining periods, but, the truth is the truth.)

  • Tim Krantz says:

    It wasn;t a on track incident,one car was off track,one was in a racing groove. 48 is the car to yield in this instance.

  • john says:

    The real question is how JGR cars could pass the others with ease at the end of the race.