HAR­VICK LOSES BERTH IN TI­TLE RACE AFTER FAILED IN­SPEC­TION

Merced Sun-Star - - Sports - BY JENNA FRYER

Kevin Har­vick’s bid for a se­cond NASCAR ti­tle suf­fered a mas­sive set­back Wed­nes­day when he was stripped of his berth in the cham­pi­onship race be­cause his win­ning car failed in­spec­tion after Texas Mo­tor Speed­way.

The dis­cov­ery of an il­le­gally mod­i­fied spoiler, made dur­ing a de­tailed post-race in­spec­tion after the No. 4 Ford re­turned to NASCAR’s Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter fol­low­ing Sun­day’s race, negates the au­to­matic berth Har­vick earned into the fi­nal four. The rule vi­o­lated states that spoil­ers must be used ex­actly as sup­plied from the man­u­fac­turer and not al­tered.

On top of los­ing his spot in next week­end’s fi­nale at Homestead-Mi­ami Speed­way, Har­vick must also close out the fi­nal two races of the sea­son with­out crew chief Rod­ney Childers and car chief Robert Smith. Both were sus­pended for two races, and Childers also was fined $75,000.

Har­vick was docked 40 driver points, and Ste­wartHaas Rac­ing was docked 40 owner points as well. Har­vick en­ters this week­end’s race at Phoenix fourth among the re­main­ing eight play­off driv­ers, three points above the cut­line. Should there be a tie for the fi­nal trans­fer spot, Har­vick would not be el­i­gi­ble to use the Texas vic­tory in the tiebreak­ing pro­ce­dure.

Greg Zi­padelli, vice pres­i­dent of com­pe­ti­tion at SHR, said the team will not ap­peal the penal­ties. Tony Gib­son will be Har­vick’s in­terim crew chief and Nick DeFazio will be in­terim car chief.

“We work tire­lessly across ev­ery inch of our race cars to cre­ate speed and, un­for­tu­nately, NASCAR de­ter­mined we ven­tured into an area not ac­com­mo­dated by its rule book,” Zi­padelli said. “We will not ap­peal the penalty. In­stead, we will di­rect our im­me­di­ate fo­cus to this week­end’s event in Phoenix and con­trol our des­tiny on the race­track.”

Har­vick’s win at Texas was his se­ries-lead­ing eighth in 2018 and qual­i­fied him for Homestead along with Joey Logano. Now, three spots in the fi­nale will be up for grabs Sun­day in Phoenix.

Har­vick won the 2014 Cup Se­ries cham­pi­onship and went to Phoenix that sea­son in a must-win sit­u­a­tion to race for the ti­tle. He pulled it off and is a nine-time win­ner at Phoenix, in­clud­ing ear­lier this year.

Har­vick has been in NASCAR’s fi­nale three of the last four years.

The penalty is dis­as­trous for SHR, which went into the third round of the play­offs with all four of its driv­ers el­i­gi­ble for the cham­pi­onship. Logano grabbed the first spot, which meant the best SHR could do was qual­ify three cars for Homestead. Now, SHR could wind up locked out of the fi­nale out­right if Har­vick doesn’t ad­vance past Phoenix. Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer are all below the cut­line and likely need to win at Phoenix to ad­vance.

The penalty against Har­vick also closes a rough race for NASCAR, which er­ro­neously pe­nal­ized Jim­mie John­son mo­ments be­fore the race be­gan. John­son was sent to the back of the field be­cause NASCAR be­lieved his car failed in­spec­tion three times, but he had failed only twice.

NASCAR an­nounced the mis­take dur­ing the race and said Mon­day it has up­dated its pro­ce­dures to pre­vent a sim­i­lar mis­take mov­ing for­ward. Later in the same event, Bowyer was pe­nal­ized for a crew mem­ber be­ing over the pit road wall too early. The crew mem­ber was sit­ting on the wall with his feet touch­ing the as­phalt on pit road, which was a vi­o­la­tion, even if it seemed ex­treme.

LARRY PAPKE AP

Kevin Har­vick cel­e­brates after win­ning at Texas Mo­tor Speed­way Sun­day. With a NASCAR penalty for us­ing an il­le­gal spoiler, he now has to qual­ify for a berth in the cham­pi­onship race.

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