Rear window penalties have become a trend in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. On Tuesday, Kyle Larson became the fifth driver in 2018 to suffer an L1-level penalty for an infraction regarding the rear window braces. The punishment comes on the heels of a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Larson’s car violated Sections 20.4.h and 126.96.36.199.b&c in the NASCAR rulebook, which details the rear window. In Larson’s case, his rear window was not “flush to the rear deck lid”, while the rear window support braces were improperly adjusted to keep it rigid, resulting in the window bending inwards.
Crew chief Chad Johnston was fined $50,000, while crew chief David Bryant was suspended for the next two Cup points races. As the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is an exhibition race, he will be allowed to serve the #42 team. Larson was docked 20 points, dropping his total from 356 to 336, while he also fell from tenth in the points standings to eleventh behind Aric Almirola. With Larson’s penalty, there are now no Chevrolet drivers in the top ten. He also lost the playoff point attained for winning the race’s second stage.
Earlier in the 2018 season, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott also received the same penalties following the Las Vegas and Texas races, respectively. At Dover, Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suárez suffered the same fates.
NASCAR has taken notice of the increase in rear window violations. NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller commented:
“The industry has kind of seen a rash of this type of thing lately with the rear windows. The teams have obviously found some performance in that area and they’re kind of pushing the envelope, not to say that anyone wants their stuff to come back looking like that and be illegal, but they’ve obviously found performance and they’re pushing the envelope, and when you do that, sometimes it pushes over the edge. I think that’s the case with this one and the case with the other ones we’ve had here recently with the rear window violations. It’s kind of more of the same.”
During the race, in which Larson led a race-high 102 laps, he made contact with Ryan Blaney on lap 249. The incident knocked Blaney out of the race and caused damage to Larson’s car, though he was able to rally to finish in the top five. Afterwards, suspicion was raised regarding Larson’s rear window, which had started bending. In a post-race interview, Larson explained it was a result of the wreck with Blaney, though NASCAR still took his #42 to the R&D center for further inspection.
“We don’t believe [the contact] was the entire cause,” Miller commented. “I mean, there’s a possibility that it could have exacerbated the situation a little bit, but we have evidence that shows that there were things happening before that contact.”
In response to the rise of such infractions, Miller announced further cases will result in harsher punishment. The maximum penalty for an L1-level violation is one team member being suspended for three races, a $75,000 fine, and 40 points being removed.
“From this point forward, we’re prepared to ramp up penalties, and we’re going to go to the high end to see if we can get the message across because obviously what we’re doing now is not really working,” Miller said. “If we get down the road and that doesn’t work, we’ll ramp the penalties for this violation up even further. It’s just one of those things as an industry we have to stop.”
Other penalties during the weekend include Joey Logano‘s crew chief Todd Gordon receiving a $10,000 for an improperly-secured lug nut.