Har­vick: Cheat? I just drive

Tampa Bay Times - - Morning Briefing - Times staff, wires

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kevin Har­vick shrugged off a cheat­ing scan­dal to show he’s still a le­git­i­mate ti­tle con­tender in NASCAR’s Cup se­ries by win­ning the pole for his fi­nal crack at mak­ing the cham­pi­onship race.

As for what ex­actly hap­pened with his racewin­ning car last week­end, Har­vick didn’t of­fer any new in­for­ma­tion af­ter claim­ing the top start­ing spot for Sun­day’s Can-Am 500 at ISM Race­way out­side Phoenix.

“I don’t build the cars. I can’t tell you what’s good and what’s bad. I just show up and drive the cars,” Har­vick said Fri­day.

But his crew chief, Rod­ney Childers, said Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing mod­i­fied the spoiler on Har­vick’s car for the Texas 500 at Texas Mo­tor Speed­way last week­end be­cause other teams were al­ready do­ing sim­i­lar al­ter­ations. Childers is sus­pended for the fi­nal two races of the sea­son as Har­vick tries to over­come a devastating penalty is­sued this week for what NASCAR de­ter­mined was a bla­tant case of cheat­ing, a penalty that cost him a spot in the play­off ’s fi­nal four.

When the spoiler was re­moved from Har­vick’s No. 4 Ford dur­ing an ex­ten­sive in­spec­tion in North Carolina af­ter his win, NASCAR dis­cov­ered the part had been al­tered.

It is NASCAR’s be­lief that Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing 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.

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

Har­vick was con­tentious at his news con­fer­ence af­ter win­ning the pole, declining to delve into the scan­dal but prais­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion for its strong ef­fort Fri­day.

“It’s more about peo­ple than it is about cars, and we’ve got a lot of good peo­ple,” he said.

Childers elab­o­rated in a se­ries of Twit­ter posts early Fri­day in which he said Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing made the de­ci­sion to move the spoiler af­ter other teams shifted their deck­lids and spoil­ers to the right in the Hollywood Casino 400 on Oct. 21 at Kansas Speed­way. Childers said it was too late for the team to move the deck­lid for the Texas race.

He also said there were no hard feel­ings be­tween NASCAR and Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing, which has all four of its driv­ers still el­i­gi­ble for the fi­nal three play­off spots 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 vic­tory in the Pennzoil 400 at Las Ve­gas on March 4 was also dis­qual­i­fied. The Texas 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 play­off ’s fi­nal four.

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

“Ev­ery­one pushes hard, and it’s noth­ing new,” Logano said. “We like mak­ing … a big stink out of it, but hon­estly, it is part of our sport.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Kevin Har­vick cel­e­brates his win in Sun­day’s Texas 500 at Texas Mo­tor Speed­way, a win NASCAR took away this week for what it called bla­tant cheat­ing by his team with a car part.

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