Harvicks Lose-Lose Situation

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Jeff Burton is regarded as one of the most cerebral driver in the NASCAR Winston Cup garage area. Still, he’s had moments when he let his temper get the best of him.

But Burton has since learned from his mistakes, and he hopes the one-race suspension to Kevin Harvick can teach a few things to the younger superstar. Burton talked candidly Sunday about Harvick, about aggressive driving and about reigning in emotions.

And he also talked about an incident at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, N.C. several years ago in a Busch Series race. Burton and Nemechek got into it, and neither came out on the winning end.

“We had a I-wreck-you-you-wreck-me race,” Burton said. “And we wanted to fight afterwards. Next week, (NASCAR’s) Les Richter let it be known that wasn’t going to happen. He was here before us, and we would leave before him under his terms. It was not a discussion, it was not a conversation. It was, ‘This is way it’s going to be.’

“I respected that authority. I feared that authority. That’s the way I was raised. That was probably the biggest eye-opening experience for me. You’re part of NASCAR, and when you do something that hurts all of us, it’s going to hurt you more.”

Nemechek was leading that race when Burton punted him. Nemechek later retaliated.

“I tore his up, and he tore mine up,” Burton said. “He was leading the race, and I got into him. He got into the wall and messed his car up. I was leading the race, and he waited for me. He killed mine. It was pretty big.

“It didn’t do either one of us any good.”

After the talk from NASCAR, Burton and Nemechek feared for their careers. That fear led them to drive a little less aggressively.

“Joe and I talked about it since, man, we walked on eggshells,” Burton said. “We were scared for a long time. You have to respect authority. You have to understand that you are part of this show, but it just doesn’t revolve around you.”

Perhaps that’s a lesson Harvick needs to learn. Burton sure learned it later in his career when he and his Stavola Bros. team were kicked out of a Winston Cup race in 1994 at Richmond for drilling holes in the roll bars.

“It goes on without you,” Burton said. “Kevin’s not going to believe, ‘They’re going to actually race.’ When they sent us home at Richmond, I just couldn’t believe they were going to race that race without me. ‘You’re going to have this race without me? How are you going to do that?’ Man, it goes on. It’ll be going when I’m gone. It’ll be going when he’s gone.

“You have to understand that you’re part of it. You’re not THE show.”

Harvick agreed with the suspension, pointing out that he expressed a desire to retaliate before both of the times he retaliated this year. The first was in Bristol after Greg Biffle punted him in a Busch Series race, prompting Harvick to go after Biffle in a post-race interview.

That got Harvick probation, which he violated Saturday at Martinsville when Harvick went after Coy Gibbs in a Craftsman Truck Series race – and then defied NASCAR by parking his truck outside the NCTS hauler and telling series director Wayne Auton that if NASCAR wanted to talk to him, they had to come to his motorcoach.

“He’s been good for the sport in some ways,” Burton said. “In other ways, he has to understand that he is a public figure. And when you’re on probation, man, you’ve got to walk a finer line. You just have to. Premeditated stuff is never forgiven, it has always been punished… At some point, you’ve got to be able to catch your breath and think about what it is you’re doing.”

Burton even spread some of the blame to the people around him.

“Somebody around him needed to help him (Saturday),” Burton said. “When he made that comment (about going after Gibbs), somebody should have said, ‘Kevin, you can’t do that. You can’t do that.’

“People around me, they need to know my weaknesses, and they need to help me with those weaknesses. Everybody has weaknesses in different areas. In his case, his emotions got the best of him, and somebody on his team needed to help him. I don’t know if they tried or didn’t try, but it wasn’t effective with whatever they did.”

Burton has had solid relationships with his crew chiefs, who have put Burton in his place a time or two – and vice versa.

“I’ve been in situations where Buddy (Parrott) had to calm me down, where Frank (Stoddard) had to calm me down,” Burton said. “I’ve been in situations where I had to calm them down. They’d say something over the radio, ‘I’m going to go do this.’ I’ve said, ‘No, stay where you are, stay out of trouble.’”

Burton grants that emotions play a big part of NASCAR, but you can’t let emotions get the best of you.

“Sometimes you want to go and fix that and stand your ground,” Burton said. “In some cases, that’s not best for you. Some cases, you need to say, ‘It’s a bad deal that happened to me,’ and go on.

“You see a lot more of that going on at Saturday night racing than you do Sunday big-time television racing. You just have to learn to catch your breath and understand there’s another race coming. It still hurts the same, it still feels the same. You can make the problem worse or you can make it better.

“You’re already wrecked, you’re already spun out. Whatever you do to that person doesn’t make it come back. It doesn’t put you back in the position you were in. You’ve got to understand that. No good comes out of just intentionally wrecking somebody. What did Kevin get out of it? He got the worst possible thing that he could have gotten.”

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