Kevin Harvick and his #4 Stewart-Haas Racing team might be on a two-race winning streak, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the California native.
On Wednesday, NASCAR announced his team has received an L1-level penalty for two rules violations during Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The infractions in particular concern Sections 188.8.131.52 and 20.4.18 of the rulebook, which focuses on rear window support and rocker panel extensions, respectively.
In the former, NASCAR officials discovered a brace on the rear window that bent; such items are required to keep the window rigid for the entire race. Regarding the rocker panel extension, it was found to be made of a different material than the mandated aluminium.
As punishment, Harvick lost all benefits that came with the win; although he is allowed to retain the trophy and officially remains the winner of the 2018 Pennzoil 400, the seven playoff points attained for winning the race and both stages are removed. He also loses 20 points in the driver’s championship, while his team loses 20 in the owner’s points. As he had won the week before at Atlanta Motor Speedway, barring a disastrous regular season in which more than sixteen drivers win a race, he is still locked into the playoffs.
Additionally, car chief Robert Smith has been suspended two races, while crew chief Rodney Childers has been fined $50,000. Although crew chiefs are typically suspended under L1-level penalties, NASCAR felt the importance of the car chief in this particular infraction outweighs that of the crew chief.
Suspicion of the legality of Harvick’s car stemmed as early as the hours following Sunday’s race. On the subreddit /r/NASCAR, users spotted the flexed rear window brace in a screenshot of the car. During the race, Chase Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson also noticed the window.
“When he’s up to speed, I think that thing pushes down about two or three inches,” Gustafson commented on the radio.
Elliott took to Twitter regarding the matter: “Sure. We discussed it. Was that why he won the event, no it wasn’t. [Harvick, Childers]. I’ve been on the other end of the stick.” Elliott’s closing sentence likely alludes to his own L1 penalty after the 2017 race at Chicagoland Speedway in which his second-place finish was nullified points-wise for unapproved aerodynamic modifications involving the placement of tape on the car.
If determined to overturn the ruling, the #4 team may appeal the penalties to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel.
With the 20-point loss, Harvick is no longer the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship leader as he drops to third with 115 points. With 132 points, Joey Logano is the new points leader entering the TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway. Ryan Blaney trails by one point.