Middle-aged NASCAR Champ Kevin Harvick Has Tantrum, Shoves Middle-Aged NASCAR Champ Jimmie Johnson

There is nothing more unseemly than old-guy swagger.

byMike Guy|
NASCAR photo

Martin Amis once wrote there is one rule that men should follow in a street fight: “Maximum violence, instantly. Don’t pussyfoot, don’t wait for the war to escalate. Nuke them, right off. Hit them with everything, milk bottle, car tool, clenched keys or coins.”

This wisdom seems lost on the middle-aged men who drive in the NASCAR circuit.

The backstory here: On lap 135 of Sunday’s opener of the Chase—the 10-race playoff of NASCAR’s backward-running season (its Super Bowl equivalent, the Daytona 500, happened seven months ago)—defending champion Kevin Harvick, who is a couple months shy of 40 years old, was defending position against six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who is 40 years old, along the apron. When Johnson, 40, slid up the track, Harvick, 39, refused him entry. The two collided. Harvick was forced to retire his car.

So. The race ends (Denny Hamlin won, by the way), and Johnson wanders past Harvick’s motorhome at the Chicagoland Speedway infield, presumably to talk it out. Harvick, nearly 40 years old, emerges with a winning smile, slides on a pair of wraparound Oakleys and then half-punch-shove-paws at Johnson, who is 40 years old. The ensuing kerfuffle involves a manager, a wife, a motorcycle cop and a baleful-looking Johnson exiting stage left:

What’s wrong with a little fighting, anyway? Among men, under certain circumstances, the answer is nothing. Fights are how some men communicate their frustrations with one another. They are also a an important part of the heritage of sports (see Nolan Ryan humiliating Robin Ventura; every hockey game ever), and most definitely a part of stock car racing (see Donnie Allison vs. Cale Yarborogh, A.J. Foyt vs. Arie Luyendyk, Greg Biffle vs. Jay Sauter, Tony Stewart vs. Everyone). 

The problem with Harvick vs. Johnson is obvious: They’re both middle-aged millionaires whose hearts really aren't in it. They're playing out that NASCAR-pro wrestling tradition of caged, canned spectacle. That’s probably the reason for Harvick’s obvious unwillingness to actually fight, the very definition of “pussyfooting.” Second, these two guys—both California-born multimillionaires—are old enough to look silly pushing each other around. If you’re going to hit someone, hit someone. It’s the first rule of the street. And the oval-track. And if you're not, skip the theatrics and head to your private jet. This isn't you, Kevin. Come on, Jimmie.