Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Harvick's championship berth spoiled by NASCAR inspectors

Kevin Harvick’s win Sunday at Texas no longer counts for automatic qualification into the championship raceMore Kevin Harvick’s win Sunday at Texas no longer counts for automatic qualification into the championship raceMore
Sidney Guerrero | 08 November, 2018, 22:27

However, NASCAR announced on Wednesday that the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion was not quite up to spec, and was popped with an L1 penalty when the vehicle was inspected at NASCAR's Research and Development Center.

"We have small windows and tight windows to get the inspections done, and we might spend in the neighborhood of five minutes with each of the 40 cars for the three-hour window that we have for inspection", Miller said.

The spoilers, Miller said, are purchased from a single source supplier and positioned on the auto. Johnson was sent to the back of the field because NASCAR believed his auto failed inspection three times, but he had failed only twice.

"This met the shape, and it met the height, and we don't check at track the offset of the spoiler because it's supposed to be a standard part that bolts to a standard deck lid", Miller said.

Harvick was docked 40 driver points, and Stewart-Haas Racing was docked 40 owner points as well. In addition to 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 auto chief Robert Smith. He will enter this weekend's Round of 8 finale fourth among eight playoff drivers in the standings, three points above the cutline - should there be a tie for the final transfer spot, Harvick can not use the Texas win in the tiebreaking procedure.

Stewart-Haas Racing will not appeal the penalty.

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Miller said that in light of recent rules violations by teams, the sanctioning body is looking at ramping up the penalties throughout the off=season for next year and could take the unprecedented step of disqualifying cars finishing position altogether - a move never implemented in the sport's history. NASCAR also hit Childers with a $75,000 fine.

"We work tirelessly across every inch of our racecars to create speed and, unfortunately, NASCAR determined we ventured into an area not accommodated by its rule book", SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said Wednesday in a statement.

The team has the right to appeal this penalty, but indicated that they will forgo that option. That leaves Harvick to fight for his playoff life at Phoenix this weekend with backup crew chief Tony Gibson. "We will direct our immediate focus to this weekend's event in Phoenix and control our destiny on the racetrack".

Miller said NASCAR officials at ISM Raceway in Phoenix this weekend will further scrutinize all spoilers before cars go on track as a response to the penalty. The only way to detect the offending part is to remove it from the auto, which was done at the NASCAR R&D Center on Tuesday.

Now Harvick's team has been rocked by a penalty that may change the composition of the final four drivers racing for the title. All three were expected to race for the championship, and none is qualified for Homestead yet with one race remaining.

In what was the strongest words heard in sometime by a NASCAR official about the actions of a team violating the rules, Scott Miller, Senior Vice President of Competition, said Kevin Harvick's spoiler was offset to the right of the centerline of the auto and it was intentional. Auto chief Robert Smith has also been suspended from the next two Cup Series races. "We will now return our focus to Phoenix, and the battle for a championship". Driver Ryan Blaney loses 20 driver points, and the team loses 20 owner points. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins is fined $50,000, and auto chief Kirk Almquist is suspended for the next two races.

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