Kyle Busch isn’t buying what Kevin Harvick is selling.
In his final season as a NASCAR Cup series driver, Harvick and his management team put together a content plan aimed at telling the story of a 30-year career. In doing so, Harvick has reflected on the highs, lows, accomplishments and defeats. And don’t forget all those famous feuds and feisty interviews.
But amazingly, from those rivalries have come relationships. Harvick is no longer trading barbs with Joey Logano, shoving Brad Keselowski into confrontations, or bending sheet metal with Busch.
It’s taken time, but maturity prevailed. So, when asked if that’s something he’ll be most proud of – going from foes to friends with some of his competitors – Harvick could only smile and give another quotable moment.
“A lot of that is show, though,” he said. “You have to remember this still is a show. I think on the days when things aren’t going your way, it’s still okay to be a showman, and it’s still okay to cause those fires and make those things happen. So, it makes it more fun. Makes it exciting.”
This is where Busch offers a laugh and some amusement of his own. Busch would have liked to have been clued into Harvick’s thinking when the two of them were at it seemingly every week for quite a few years.
“Yeah, he might want to tell us first,” Busch chuckled. “I’d be more willing to go along with it if it was more for show. So, I call bull**** on that.”
Busch does agree that the word “rivalry” is applicable to he and Harvick’s relationship in the early 2000s. There is a 20-minute YouTube clip of Busch and Harvick run-ins to help his case.
Ironically enough, the YouTube clip starts with an incident that Busch first brings up when reflecting on their turbulent times. It was 2005 at Dover Motor Speedway in what is now the Xfinity Series, and the two collided off Turn 4 when running side-by-side.
“I came off the corner (and) got loose and I hit Harvick,” Busch said. “We were battling for third, I think, and got in the wall and I ended up like T-bone on his hood down the frontstretch. He gassed it up and downshifted and just pushed me all the way down the straightaway and tried to slam me into the inside wall.
“From then on, we kind of just did not like each other. We withstood each other before that, and then right there was kind of like the OK, basically, we hate each other. And that was early.”
Mike Joy, who was in the broadcast booth that day, even remarked, “… this wreck is still going on.” The two cars stayed hooked together until coming to a stop in the grass between Turns 1 and 2.
In the years that followed, there were hard battles and contact, but the next hardcore moment, as Busch described it, was in 2011 at Darlington Raceway (pictured top). It started off Turn 2 when Busch got a run to the inside of Harvick and the two made contact. Harvick then gave Busch a shot in the bumper in Turn 3, which knocked Busch up in the hill and left the door open for Clint Bowyer to make it three-wide off Turn 4.
Busch, on the outside and Harvick, in the middle, made contact. There was more contact down the front stretch before Busch hooked Harvick in the right rear. After the race, the confrontation continued coming to pit road and ended when Harvick stopped in front of Busch, got out of his car and tried to go to Busch’s window. But Busch made a quick escape by pushing Harvick’s car out of the way, which hit the pit wall, and driving away.
“I think that stemmed a lot from … he was pissed that I stole some people from him at KHI (Kevin Harvick, Inc.),” Busch said. “So, the whole time KBM started and got going, I had his people that helped me start it and get it going. The resentment – he did not like that so he took it out on me.
“I feel like he did and then KHI drivers did. It was just all full out.”
Oh yes, don’t forget an underlying factor in the rivalry: Busch and Harvick were competing owners in the Craftsman Truck Series. Kyle Busch Motorsports debuted in 2010 and, along with Kevin Harvick, Inc., became one of the most dominant teams in the series.
The pair were rival team owners in the Truck series until 2011. Motorsport Images
The 2011 season ended up being the last for KHI. However, before the doors closed, Busch had a few issues with Harvick drivers along the way.
Elliott Sadler and Busch made contact in the Truck Series race at Bristol, which resulted in Busch retaliating. Busch and Ron Hornaday had a massive blowup at Texas Motor Speedway when the two made contact side-by-side in Turns 1 and 2, both hitting the wall and then Busch running into the back of and hooking Hornaday in Turn 3. Busch was parked from competing for the rest of the weekend.
Given how explosive things were between the two for so long, Busch and Harvick becoming friends, who were capable of having hard but clean battles on the track while conversing about the burgeoning racing careers of their sons, was quite the twist. Busch felt the “big turn point” came to happen after KHI came to a close and by the time Harvick joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. Since there has been more give and take between the two.
“I don’t know if Tony [Stewart] sat him down or if Rodney [Childers] sat him down, but Kevin had a change dynamically of how he was going to go race,” Busch said. “I wouldn’t say it calmed him down, but it made him more able to work with on the racetrack rather than being archenemies.
“From 2014 on, we’ve been fine. We give each other space; we know when each other is faster. Like in 2018, when it was the Big Three, it was me, Kevin and Martin [Truex Jr.]. Martin would win, Kevin would win, Kyle would win. Martin would win, Kyle would win, Kevin would win. It kept going, and we never really had the moments that we were at each others throats. We were racing another hard but clean, and may the best man win.”
Harvick won his first and only Cup Series championship in 2014. Busch earned his first championship a year later and followed it with a second in 2019.
During the 2018 season, Busch, Harvick, and Truex combined to win 20 of 36 races, and there were multiple instances of the trio trading wins on a weekly basis. Busch and Harvick led the series with eight victories each that season.
The numbers between Busch and Harvick continue. Not only are both champions of the Cup Series, but Busch and Harvick also accomplished the same in the Xfinity Series. As owners, both have claimed championships in the Craftsman Truck Series.
Busch, who is still active, sits at 63 career Cup Series victories. Harvick retired with 60 career victories, which has him eighth on the all-time wins list, right behind Busch.