|Harvick spins into the infield after making contact with the wall|
|Getty Images for NASCAR|
The intensity from NASCAR's elimination-style Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs ramped up earlier than ever this year. Defending series champion #4-Kevin Harvick shoved six-time champion #48-Jimmie Johnson to express his frustration about a midrace clash during the MyAFibRisk.com 400, the first race of the 2015 Chase.
Harvick cut a tire and crashed into the Turn 3 wall at Chicagoland Speedway a few laps later on the way to a 42nd-place finish. Johnson went to Harvick's motorhome to discuss the incident after the race. He was standing outside with Josh Jones, the business development director of Harvick's company, when the driver of the #4 driver emerged from his bus. Within a few seconds, Harvick shoved Johnson in the chest with a closed fist and, separated by Jones, began jawing at his rival. Jones restrained Harvick until Harvick's wife DeLana intervened and the two of them coaxed him into a waiting Chevy Suburban.
The come-together in question happened just after a restart on the 135th lap of of the 267-lap race. Joey Logano's Team Penske Ford bumped Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as they were getting up to speed, sending the #48 car low on the the apron of the track. Johnson's #48 pulled alongside Harvick and the two Chevys made side-to-side contact when Johnson attempted to move back onto the racing surface.
Harvick's car developed a left-rear tire rub, and four laps later, the tire let go and the #4 car backed heavily into the Turn 3 wall. After extensive repairs by Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick rejoined the race 57 laps down, warning over his radio: "Let me know when that 48's near me on the track." Logano steered clear of the controversy after finishing in sixth place. "I ain't getting in the middle of it," he said with a smile. "I don't want no part of that!" ESPN.com