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Harvick, Johnson meeting to clear air

2/17/2005

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kevin Harvick should be accustomed to
fellow drivers throwing angry words his way. He might have to get
used to them throwing other things, too.

After Harvick exited the infield care center with an aching
chest Thursday, Joe Nemechek nearly hit him with a water bottle. It
was a clear display of the anguish Harvick caused during the second
of two 150-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500.

Harvick bumped Jimmie Johnson more than halfway through the
60-lap race, starting a seven-car wreck and stirring the emotions
of several drivers and their crews.

"It's frustrating because I know how much all these guys have
put into this, and to have it taken out by someone like him, that's
stupid,'' Nemechek said.

Johnson, who trailed only three-time Daytona winner Dale Jarrett
in pole qualifying last Sunday, was leading the race when he slowed
in the second turn and got rear-ended by Harvick. The bump turned
Johnson's car sideways and ignited a crash that took out Johnson,
Harvick, Nemechek and fellow top contenders Mark Martin and Rusty
Wallace.

None of them was injured.

But some of their cars were badly damaged. Harvick, Nemechek and
Wallace were forced to switch to backup cars and will move to the
back of the field for NASCAR's biggest race.

"It's a shame. He just tore up six or seven good race cars,''
said Johnson, adding that team owner Richard Childress should fire
Harvick and NASCAR should penalize him. "This is ridiculous,
absolutely ridiculous.''

Harvick and Johnson were summoned to the NASCAR trailer after
tempers had cooled. Harvick acknowledged fault in the wreck, and
NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter warned the drivers that future
problems could result in fines or suspensions.

"We told them that they need to either work it out for
themselves or we'll work it out for them,'' Hunter said. "We just
consider it a racing incident. If they get into it again, there
could be some severe penalties, like missing a race.''

Hunter added that the drivers shook hands and agreed to meet by
themselves Thursday night -- without crew chiefs, car owners or
NASCAR officials -- to work through their differences, which began
at Phoenix last year.

"We want to make absolutely sure that at the start of a new
season, there's no carry-over,'' Hunter said.

Harvick is considered NASCAR's most volatile driver, capable of
causing a wreck on the track or unleashing a scathing critique of a
competitor off of it. He has long-standing feuds with Greg Biffle,
Kurt Busch and Robby Gordon.

He also was the first driver in NASCAR history to be suspended
for a race. NASCAR officials refused to let him compete in a 2002
race at Martinsville because of his behavior.

"He just drives stupid,'' Nemechek said. "He'll get it back.
It was totally uncalled-for what happened out there. Everybody is
racing and he's trying to turn people around in the middle of the
corner.''

Harvick apologized for his error, but that did little to soothe
emotions in the garage area.

"I just spun him out, and I feel sorry for the teams and
everybody involved,'' Harvick said.