2017-03-07 / Sports

NASCAR needs some rivalries to spice up the racing action

BY JENNA FRYER
The Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C.

Rivalries are the lifeblood of sports, and NASCAR sorely needs a few to spice up the action.

The discourse among drivers has been tame for several years, in part because wives and children have seemed to mellow the competitors. They live inches away from each other in the same motorhome lot every weekend, share the playground, the basketball court and the gym.

It’s kind of hard to slide a side eye at someone you share a neighborhood with 38 weekends a year.

So there was much delight Sunday night when DeLana Harvick, wife of known agitator Kevin Harvick, took a swipe on social media at Austin Dillon. Mrs. Harvick was upset that Dillon seemed to lose power in the waning laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where his decision to stay on the track caused a race-altering caution.

Because Dillon didn’t pull off, NASCAR brought out the yellow flag and the field headed to pit road for a final stop. Harvick, who had the win in control prior to Dillon’s action , was flagged for speeding on pit road and the penalty cost him a victory.

Harvick had led 292 of the 325 laps — the most ever for a driver at Atlanta who did not win the race — and he finished ninth.

His wife used an expletive on Twitter to express her displeasure with Dillon, and many fans rejoiced because it was the most exciting thing to come out of the second race of the season.

Harvick didn’t point the finger at Dillon. After all, it’s hard to cast blame on someone when you were the one caught speeding. But that entire sequence and the volley from DeLana Harvick were the best parts of an otherwise uninspiring race.

Perhaps something else would have changed the course of the event in the final minutes, but without that caution, Harvick drives to an easy win. Instead, Brad Keselowski proved his team can overcome adversity by coming back from a pit road error to take the checkered flag.

Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott again showed they will contend for victories many times this season. Atlanta officials conceded that overwhelming driver pressure has them reconsidering a planned repave to the track, and Ford with its beefed up lineup has gone 2- for-2 to start the Cup season.

Those are your highlights, folks.

NASCAR no longer wants to see fisticuffs from its drivers, who also have sponsors that prefer they be family-friendly brand ambassadors. But everything is built around excitement, and NASCAR needs more of it, immediately.

LARSON LOSES

Chip Ganassi has taken the “I like winners” slogan to new heights with his social media use of the tag when talking anything from politics to team performance. The owner must be getting a little anxious about star driver Kyle Larson.

Larson finished second to Keselowski on Sunday after choosing to run the slower high line at Atlanta while leading the race in the final moments. Keselowski got by Larson on the bottom, and Larson has now been passed for the lead late in a race in the last three Cup races dating to the November season finale.

The season-opener at Daytona wasn’t his fault because Larson ran out of gas. But Larson could be accused of either overthinking or being too nice. Either way, he’s got just one win in his Cup career and that’s not enough for the victory-charged Ganassi.

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