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Kevin Harvick: It’s a tossup between Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Friday, Nov. 08, 2013

Las Vegas oddsmakers won’t like this.

Kevin Harvick, the only other driver with a plausible chance to win this season’s Sprint Cup Series championship, calls the battle between first place Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth basically “a draw.”

Harvick was asked Friday to evaluate each driver and pick who he thought had a leg up in the title fight the last two races.

Harvick said conventional wisdom this season isn’t a good guide. Kenseth had traditionally not been good at Martinsville, Va., yet led the most laps and almost won the race. Johnson had not won at a 1.5-mile track this season until he blistered the competition last weekend at Texas.

“It’s just about who hits it the best on a particular weekend because those guys have run well all year,” Harvick said. “And I think the part everybody forgets are that stats don’t really mean anything, especially on Matt’s side.

“It’s a crapshoot at this point. Obviously, this racetrack can play a lot of havoc on track position and things happening and get caught up in something, but I think performance-wise, it’s a draw at this point.”

No penalty for Wallace

NASCAR does not plan to issue a penalty to Truck Series driver Darrell Wallace Jr. for physically confronting fellow driver Chad Frewaldt after a wreck in Thursday night’s practice session and slapping at his helmet while Frewaldt sat in his truck.

Frewaldt met with Truck Series director Chad Little after the incident, and Wallace met with Little and Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition.

Wallace had just passed the much-slower moving Frewaldt exiting Turn 4 when Frewaldt hit Wallace in the left-rear. The contact resulted in both drivers wrecking. Wallace immediately walked over to Frewaldt’s truck, reached in the window and struck Frewaldt.

“Tempers were flaring,” Pemberton said. “We’ve talked to both drivers and feel like the situation is resolved.”

Wallace agreed.

“We were just getting around a slower truck and just got run over,” he said. “We’re both rookies, so we’ve moved on from that.”

Burton prepares for next chapter

As Jeff Burton, 46, winds down what is likely his last full-time season in the Cup series, he is looking forward to the next chapter of his career.

“I feel that I know what I am going to be doing, it’s just you all don’t,” Burton told the media Friday. “I feel very confident.

“I know exactly what I’m going to be doing part of next year and there is another part of it that I’m still working on, but really close on.”

Asked if part of his plan involved driving, Burton replied: “Part of it is, yes.”

Ryan Newman will replace Burton in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 31 Chevrolets beginning next season.

Last race for Bobby Labonte?

It’s possible Sunday could be Bobby Labonte’s last race as a Cup series driver. Labonte, 49, the 2000 Cup champion, makes his last planned start in the series with JTG Daugherty Racing.

AJ Allmendinger, who will replace Labonte in the No. 47 next season, is driving the car in next weekend’s season finale at Homestead, Fla., for the team as well.

“The last two years the team went out on their own,” Labonte said. “It was without support from being a part of a big organization and that has been tough. The choice they made to go out on their own I supported. They needed to go in that direction.

“The battle was still to get the team in position to go forward. We went through the trenches together to get there. I always woke up every day and put my best foot forward.”