He’s out of the playoffs, but eyes will still be on NASCAR’s Kevin Harvick at Texas

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Kevin Harvick isn’t in the news as a championship contender this time around. He missed the cut into the Round of 8 last weekend, and he enters this weekend’s NASCAR Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway on the dreaded outside.

But Harvick has created headlines with his ongoing feud with fellow driver Chase Elliott and refused to say Wednesday whether that situation has been put to rest with four races left in the season.

“I will continue to do what I feel is right for my team,” said Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing. “I think as we race and do the things that we need to do, we will continue to focus on ourselves and make sure that we do the right thing to make sure our team is in a fair position of how we’re raced and the things that happen going forward.”

NASCAR reportedly held a call later on Wednesday with all parties to warn of “serious consequences” if the feud continued, according to the Associated Press.

It started last month during the Round of 16’s finale at Bristol when late-race contact by Elliott ended a push by Harvick. That resulted in a heated conversation between Harvick and Elliott on pit road.

Then, last weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, the two tangled again when Harvick bumped Elliott and sent him into a retaining wall midway through the race. Elliott recovered and stayed in the playoff mix, while a late crash eliminated Harvick.

Elliott took a shot at Harvick during post-race TV interview, wishing Harvick and his No. 4 Ford team a “merry offseason and a happy Christmas.”

Despite NASCAR’s warning, it’d be fitting if Harvick delivered some sort of response at TMS, a track that has a history of producing heated moments. From A.J. Foyt and Arie Luyendyk infamous fight in Victory Lane in 1997 to Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon in the fall of 2010 to Gordon and Brad Keselowski in the fall of 2014, a Harvick-Elliott scuffle has a chance to become another “moment” in TMS history.

For Harvick, though, the priority remains on getting his first win of the season. This is a driver who has won at least one race each season since 2010, including a Cup championship in 2014.

Harvick won 21 races during a three-year stretch from 2018-20.

“From a performance side, we’re not where we were the last couple of years,” Harvick said. “From an execution side, it’s one of the best years we’ve had from executing with the cars and the position that they’ve been in. Our team has done a phenomenal job. The pit crew has been absolutely unbelievable on pit road.

“On paper it looks OK, but there’s nothing in the win column. It’s been a grind. Some years are like that.”

Harvick mentioned a conversation he had with legendary driver Richard Petty this week. Petty had down years himself, recalling a season during his heyday in the 1970s when he went winless between championships.

“He said, ‘That’s just the way this sport goes, bud,’” Harvick said. “That was a fun reminder from Richard, just how fickle this sport can be.”

The good news for Harvick is that he’s coming to a track where he’s had recent success. Harvick didn’t win at TMS until his 30th start in the fall of 2017, and then went on to win the fall races in 2018 and 2019, too.

Harvick started from the pole position last fall and finished 16th. Harvick pointed to his success at TMS coinciding with the track being resurfaced and reconfigured prior to the 2017 races as well as his team emphasizing winning at tracks Harvick hadn’t won.

Plus, Harvick said, “The mile-and-a-half setup at Stewart-Haas Racing has been really good through the years. Obviously this year it hasn’t been as strong as we’d like it to have been. We just have to go out and grind through the day as we’ve done all year and try to put ourselves in a position to be around at the end. That’s our goal.

“We’ve got four races left to try and win.”

The NASCAR Cup Series’ Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 is set for 1 p.m. Sunday at TMS. The fall race weekend gets underway with NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Andy’s Frozen Custard 335 on Saturday afternoon.

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