Harvick’s championship berth spoiled by inspectors
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — 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 a performance advantage.
NASCAR said Wednesday night it believes Harvick’s spoiler was intentionally offset to the right to give the Ford an aerodynamic advantage when he drove through the corners at Texas. NASCAR can’t prove if StewartHaas Racing made its own spoiler or altered one from its manufacturer, but senior vice president of com- petition Scott Miller said the penalty is the same in either case.
The illegal spoiler was not found until the No. 4 Ford interim crew chief and Nick received a thorough inspec- DeFazio will be interim car tion at NASCAR’s Research chief. and Development Center Harvick’s win at Texas when it was returned to was his series-leading North Carolina after Sunday’s eighth of the year and qualified race. An inspector at him for Homestead Texas thought the spoiler along with Joey Logano. looked off, but Miller said it Harvick won the 2014 Cup had to be removed from the Series championship and car. Once that happened, it went to Phoenix that season was “100 percent, as black in a must-win situation to and white as it gets,” Miller race for the title. He pulled said. it off and is a nine-time winner
The whopping penalty at Phoenix, including negated the automatic berth earlier this year. Harvick earned into NASCAR’s The penalty is disastrous version of a final for SHR, which went into four. In addition to losing the third round of the playoffs his spot in next weekend’s with all four of its drivers finale at Homestead-Miami eligible for the championship. Speedway, Harvick must Logano grabbed also close out the final two the first spot, which meant races of the season without the best SHR could do was crew chief Rodney Childers qualify three cars for Homestead. and car chief Robert Smith. Now, SHR could wind Both were suspended for up locked out of the finale two races. Childers also was outright if Harvick doesn’t fined $75,000. advance past Phoenix. Aric
Harvick was docked 40 Almirola, Kurt Busch and driver points, and StewartHaas Clint Bowyer are all below Racing was docked the cutline and likely need 40 owner points as well. to win at Phoenix to advance. Harvick enters this weekend’s race at Phoenix fourth The penalty against Harvick among the remaining eight also closes a rough race playoff drivers, three points for NASCAR, which erroneously above the cutline. Should penalized Jimmie there be a tie for the final Johnson moments before transfer spot, Harvick the race began. Johnson would not be eligible to use was sent to the back of the the Texas victory in the tiebreaking field because NASCAR believed procedure. his car failed inspection
Greg Zipadelli, vice president three times, but he had of competition at SHR, failed only twice. said the team will not appeal NASCAR announced the the penalties. Tony mistake during the race and Gibson will be Harvick’s 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.
Now Harvick’s team has been rocked by a penalty that may change the composition of the final four drivers racing for the title. Harvick, along with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., is part of NASCAR’s so-called Big Three that dominated the season through a stretch of summer racing. All three were expected to race for the championship, and none is qualified for Homestead yet with one race remaining.
“It is not our desire to issue any penalties, but we’ll do so when necessary to ensure each race and championship is contested on a level playing field,” Miller said earlier Wednesday. “We will now return our focus to Phoenix, and the battle for a championship.”
NASCAR later allowed Miller to answer questions about Harvick’s penalty because of the magnitude of the situation. NASCAR had moved away in recent years from detailing infractions publicly.
Also Wednesday, NASCAR penalized the teams of Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones, who already have been eliminated from the playoffs.
Blaney crew chief Jeremy Bullins was fined $50,000, and car chief Kirk Almquist was suspended for the next two races. Jones crew chief Chris Gayle was fined $50,000 and car chief Jason Overstreet was suspended the next two races.
It took until Wednesday for the penalties to be announced because the cars were in transit Monday from Texas to North Carolina. Inspection was on Tuesday, and the teams do the actual teardown themselves. Once the Harvick violation was discovered late Tuesday, NASCAR had to examine whether the violation was correct and didn’t release its findings until the next day — two days before Harvick and his interim crew chief and car chief will practice at Phoenix.
KEVIN HARVICK celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday in Fort Worth, Texas.