Dale Earnhardt Jr., like many NASCAR fans, didn’t like what he saw from Kevin Harvick’s pit crew during Sunday’s O’Reilly’s Auto Parts 500.
The racing legend is more upset with one of NASCAR’s officials, however.
Late in Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, one of Harvick’s crew members lost control of a tire during the No. 4’s final pit stop. The mishap didn’t result in a penalty, but it probably should’ve, especially when you consider a less egregious version of the infraction prompted NASCAR to penalize Ryan Blaney and the No. 12 team earlier in the race.
To make matters worse, FOX Sports cameras caught a NASCAR official fist-bumping one of Harvick’s crew members, a moment that didn’t sit well with Earnhardt.
“It isn’t a good look, and regardless, I think the blame lays on the official in that situation,” Earnhardt said during the latest episode of his “Dale Jr. Download” podcast. “You can’t have referees high-fiving coaches on the sideline. It’s because of the culture in our sport.”
As Earnhardt and co-host Mike Davis noted, NASCAR really is a “travelling family,” which perhaps explains the buddy-buddy nature of the moment. Still, the fact that NASCAR penalized Blaney but not Harvick, who finished runner-up to Kyle Busch, has sparked speculation that officials and the No. 4 team were in cahoots.
For those unfamiliar with the rule and the confusion surrounding it, here’s an in-depth explanation from “NASCAR Race Hub’s” Adam Alexander and Larry McReynolds:
At the end of the day, it’s highly unlikely that NASCAR was doing Harvick a solid. Furthermore, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition Scott Miller later admitted: “We missed that call.”
However, this is yet another reminder that situational awareness is extremely important.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images