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NASCAR mailbag: Was Kevin Harvick too critical of his pit crew?

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Questions on Kevin Harvick’s pointed remarks, whether John Hunter Nemechek should’ve had his win taken away, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. possibly retiring.

NASCAR: Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Each week SB Nation’s NASCAR reporter Jordan Bianchi answers your questions about the latest news and happenings within the sport. If you have a mailbag question email jordanmbianchi@gmail.com.

So Matt Kenseth gets suspended two races for wrecking Joey Logano (WHO DESERVED IT), but John Hunter Nemechek gets to keep his win even though he wrecked Cole Custer?!? Why? What’s the difference? They both did the same thing and took another driver out intentionally. What did Matt Kenseth do to deserve such biased and unfair treatment by NASCAR?

--Steven

Let’s squelch the talk of favoritism and recognize the incredibly big difference between what transpired Sunday and Kenseth and Joey Logano last fall: Custer and Nemechek were racing for the win, whereas Kenseth was nine laps down when he deliberately crashed Logano, who was leading.

A driver who is well behind intentionally taking out a leader is among the biggest taboos in NASCAR (also included is tampering with the engines, tires, or fuel). Justifiably, Kenseth was suspended two races.

Nemechek moving Custer out of the way is part of NASCAR’s fabric. Officials have been pretty unwavering on this, with high-ranking NASCAR executives frequently defining stock car racing as a “contact sport.” That’s not going to change anytime soon. But had the 19-year-old seen his win taken away, it would have dramatically altered how drivers race going forward.

I’m tired of Kevin Harvick’s whining about his pit crew. He was second on the last restart [with 12 laps remaining] and had every chance to pass [Martin] Truex Jr., but instead he overdrove and hit the wall. Did his pit crew scream and blame him for his mistake? Don’t you think Harvick is being a drama queen here and just using his pit crew as an excuse?

--Tim

Yes, Harvick was second on the restart and clipped the wall trying to chase Truex down, but that was set up by what happened prior, which precipitated Harvick’s later outburst.

In Harvick’s last four pit stops he lost multiple positions on pit road three times, including one stop where he dropped from the lead to 12th. Had the No. 4 crew performed better he would have had the preferred lane on the final restart -- not the inside groove that caused him to initially fall back -- therefore Harvick wouldn’t have needed to push to make up the lost track position, likely cruising to his third win of 2016.

As for Harvick being too hard on his guys, it’s tough to fault the driver here. He was largely patient and held his tongue when mistakes happened throughout the season. On Sunday, he simply had enough.

Frustration like that is understandable when you consider how the miscues have kept occurring and the playoffs are just a week away. If you can’t get the job done during the regular season, how can you be counted on to execute when the stakes are considerably higher. This was the point Harvick was making, and it’s no coincidence Stewart-Haas Racing acted by making changes to the No. 4 crew beginning this weekend at Richmond.

Who are you to suggest Dale Jr. should retire? You’re a nobody. If Junior wants to keep driving, then that’s his choice and you shouldn’t be telling him any differently. It’s his decision. I hope he comes back, wins and calls you an idiot to your face.

--Michelle

There’s no shame in wanting to see your favorite driver back on the track again. NASCAR is more compelling when its most popular figure is racing, competitive and winning.

That said, if you step back and analyze what can happen long term to someone who suffers multiple concussions, and that Earnhardt will inevitably be involved in another high-speed crash were he to return, for his well-being it doesn’t make sense to expose himself those risks.

Of course, if Earnhardt decides it’s worth it and he’s healthy, then by all means he should do it. Regardless of what others may think. But let’s not pretend we’re not all going to cringe when the No. 88 car hits a wall wondering if Earnhardt suffered another concussion.