By Summer Bedgood, Managing Editor
Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick had just begun to show the rest of the field the kind of speed he had in his No. 4 car in the NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway before it all went wrong.
Harvick, who is in his final full-time season in the Cup Series, started the Ambetter Health 400 in the sixth position, but fell out of the top-10 before the end of Stage 1 and was unable to make it back into the top-10 before the conclusion of Stage 2.
However, a two-tire pitstop during the caution period following the end of Stage 2 put Harvick back up into the top-10, and the No. 4 car came to life.
Harvick restarted in the sixth position and continued to gain ground and run with the lead pack until he was finally able to take the lead himself on lap 189.
Unfortunately, this was short lived.
Trackhouse Racing driver Ross Chastain was behind Harvick in the second position, and drove right up to Harvick’s back bumper heading into turn one.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) March 19, 2023
Whether the front of Chastain’s No. 1 car actually made contact with the rear of Harvick’s No. 4 is inconclusive. If contact was made, it was just barely. If not, Chastain certainly got extremely close, but it was the disruption in the air, not Chastain’s bumper, that caused Harvick to spin out.
With Harvick spinning from the lead, several other cars got caught up in the incident as well. A total of 12 drivers – including Harvick and Chastain – were involved, with Chris Buescher, Harrison Burton, William Byron, B.J. McLeod, and Harvick himself retiring from the race because of the damage they sustained.
Asked about the incident after being cleared from the infield care center, Harvick himself was not sure that Chastain had actually made contact and instead placed the blame on the close quarters racing.
“I think he just caught me so quick right there in the middle of the corner and then he kind of was up on the right rear part of the corner and he came back down and when he came back down it just spun the thing out,” said Harvick. “I don’t think he actually even hit me, but it started chattering the rear tires and then I was just along for the ride.”
Chastain, for his part, did not think he made contact with Harvick’s No. 4 car either and said he was just trying to bump draft.
Ross Chastain on the Kevin Harvick accident: “Just trying to help push him. We had made a lot of ground up. I don’t think I hit him.” pic.twitter.com/saKT7GkgIt
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) March 19, 2023
Harvick would be credited with a 33rd-place finish, his worst finish in five races so far this season.
Next week, the series heads to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the 2023 EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix. Harvick finished 11th at this track last season.
Coverage starts Sunday, March 26th at 3:30PM ET on FOX, the Performance Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
Photo Credit: Christian Koelle