Cheat­ing to stay com­pet­i­tive?

Sus­pended crew chief says other teams were break­ing the rules first

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - SPORTS - JENNA FRYER

AVON­DALE, Ariz. — Kevin Har­vick’s crew chief says Stew­art-Haas Rac­ing mod­i­fied the spoiler on Har­vick’s car be­cause other teams were al­ready do­ing sim­i­lar al­ter­ations.

Rod­ney Childers is sus­pended for the fi­nal two races of the sea­son and work­ing at the race shop in North Carolina as Har­vick tries to over­come a dev­as­tat­ing penalty is­sued this week for what NASCAR de­ter­mined was a bla­tant case of cheat­ing.

Har­vick won last week­end at Texas. When the spoiler was re­moved from his No. 4 Ford dur­ing an ex­ten­sive in­spec­tion in North Carolina, NASCAR dis­cov­ered the part had been al­tered.

It is NASCAR’s be­lief that SHR built its own spoiler and tried to pass it off as one dis­trib­uted by the ven­dor. The spoiler was off­set to the right and NASCAR says it gave Har­vick an aero­dy­namic ad­van­tage.

SHR did not ap­peal the penalty and ac­knowl­edged “NASCAR de­ter­mined we ven­tured into an area not ac­com­mo­dated by its rule book.”

Childers elab­o­rated in a se­ries of tweets early Fri­day morn­ing in which he said SHR made the de­ci­sion to move the spoiler af­ter other teams shifted their deck­lids and spoil­ers to the right in the pre­vi­ous 1.5-mile race at Kansas Speed­way. Childers said it was too late for the team to move the deck­lid for the Texas race.

“This year there isn’t a num­ber or of­fi­ci­at­ing on the off­set of the deck­lid and spoiler to­gether on the car. And at Kansas we no­ticed peo­ple we were rac­ing had the spoil­ers and deck­lids fur­ther to the right than ours. And it was too late to move the deck­lid over more,” Childers posted on Twit­ter.

Ad­di­tional posts claimed the down­force ad­van­tage was “4 counts. That’s 0.04% of the to­tal down­force of the car. If you think 4 counts is the rea­son we won you’re way wrong.”

He also said there were no hard feel­ings be­tween NASCAR and SHR, which has all four of its drivers still el­i­gi­ble for the play­offs and has been the most dom­i­nant or­ga­ni­za­tion in NASCAR all sea­son.

Har­vick leads the se­ries with eight vic­to­ries, but two were with il­le­gal cars. His Las Ve­gas vic­tory from ear­lier this year was dis­qual­i­fied, as was last week’s Texas win. That dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion cost Har­vick his au­to­matic berth into next week­end’s cham­pi­onship race and Childers and car chief Robert Smith are sus­pended.

Har­vick is still math­e­mat­i­cally in con­tention to ad­vance into the fi­nal four and he’s a nine-time win­ner at Phoenix, site of Sun­day’s fi­nal cham­pi­onship-qual­i­fy­ing event. He won at Phoenix ear­lier this year.

Har­vick, the 2014 cham­pion, had no sched­uled me­dia avail­abil­ity at ISM Race­way out­side of Phoenix as of Fri­day morn­ing. SHR has de­clined to make any team of­fi­cials avail­able for com­ment.

But Joey Logano, the only driver al­ready locked into next week’s ti­tle race, was not both­ered by the ac­cu­sa­tions against Har­vick’s team. He also said he’s not won­der­ing if SHR, or oth­ers, have been cheat­ing all year.

“Ev­ery­one pushes hard and it’s noth­ing new,” Logano said. “We like mak­ing a big deal out of it, a big stink out of it, but hon­estly it is part of our sport. There are a lot more items on our cars than there is in foot­ball. As com­peti­tors we push to that edge and some­times we go a lit­tle over the edge and some­times it’s all about the way you in­ter­pret the rule­book.”

Logano missed the play­offs last year be­cause his only vic­tory of the sea­son was dis­qual­i­fied when his car failed in­spec­tion. That in­frac­tion at Rich­mond in the ninth race of the sea­son haunted Logano’s team the en­tire sea­son.

He’s not ex­pect­ing the fall­out from the SHR penalty to slow Har­vick, who typ­i­cally el­e­vates his game dur­ing times of cri­sis.

Har­vick’s 2014 cham­pi­onship sea­son was marked by two dif­fer­ent in­ci­dents dur­ing his ti­tle run: He cre­ated a wreck at Tal­ladega Su­per­speed­way to save a bad race, and he shoved Brad Ke­selowski into a scrum to trig­ger a melee be­tween Ke­selowski, Jeff Gor­don and their crews. The next week, fac­ing elim­i­na­tion if he didn’t win at Phoenix, Har­vick dom­i­nated the race and ad­vanced into the cham­pi­onship fi­nale.

He won at Home­stead to claim his first Cup ti­tle the next week.

Har­vick was run­ner-up the next sea­son and is try­ing to re­qual­ify for the fi­nale for the fourth time in five years.

Logano thinks Har­vick will be steady this week­end and the big­gest deficit the team is fac­ing is not hav­ing Childers at the track to lead the team. Childers is banned from the garage but can be in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with his crew. He said on Twit­ter he plans on putting in 14-hour work days at the North Carolina shop this week­end. It is pos­si­ble he could be on prop­erty at Home­stead-Mi­ami Speed­way for the fi­nale.

“I think if there is go­ing to be a hiccup, it’s not gonna be on Kevin’s part,” Logano said. “I think Kevin is the type of driver that rises to the oc­ca­sion. There can be a hiccup in com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Ob­vi­ously, they’ll be in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Rod­ney ... but it’s not go­ing to be very quick. You know the way things get lost in trans­la­tion some­times on the phone com­pared to be­ing face-to-face.

“You are go­ing to have those sit­u­a­tions, and it’s for the next two races. I’d say it’s a big hit for them, but I’d also feel like that car is go­ing to make it through (to Home­stead) as fast as they are and go­ing to their best race track.”

AP FILES Kevin Har­vick’s bid for a sec­ond NASCAR ti­tle suf­fered a mas­sive set­back when he was stripped of his berth in the cham­pi­onship race af­ter se­ries in­spec­tors found his win­ning car from Texas Mo­tor Speed­way had been de­lib­er­ately al­tered to give him

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