By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
The NASCAR penalty hammer has dropped on Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 team at Stewart-Haas Racing after the team’s dominating win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last Sunday.
The team was found to be in violation of Sections 18.104.22.168 (Rear Window Support and Structure) and 20.4.18 (Rocker Panel Extensions) in post-race teardown at the NASCAR R&D Center. A rear window support brace was found to have failed and did not meet NASCAR specifications for keeping the rear window glass rigid at all times. Also, the right-side rocker panel extension was found to not be made of aluminum.
Harvick’s win marked a second straight trip to victory lane in the first three races of the season, but with Wednesday’s penalty news, he will not be carrying all of the benefits of the win going forward, losing the seven playoff points for the race win and two stage wins.
Additional penalties for the team included crew chief Rodney Childers being fined $50,000, car chief Robert Smith being suspended for the next two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and losing 20 driver and owner points. The team will have the opportunity to appeal the penalties if they choose to do so.
In an interview with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio earlier this week, Childers addressed the issue after photos of the roof bent down in the area of the rear glass surfaced on Reddit and social media.
“Basically, we had a rear window brace fail, and NASCAR mandates that we run a certain T-bar in the back glass, and that T-bar is actually pretty strong,” Childers said. “Then also over the winter they wanted the rear package tray to raise the bottom of the rear glass to be really stiff and stay controlled — there were some guys that were having their rear package trays falling an inch at the end of the year last year.
“The bottom of the glass got stiffened up and the T-bar is stiff, and the center brace that holds that T-bar is what bent and failed and the T-bar ends up being stronger than the back of the roof at that point and it pulled the back of the roof down.
“To be honest, that stuff has been a struggle over many, many years. I can remember being at Michigan with Mark Martin in 2012. You’re just going so fast at those intermediate tracks and you’ve got so much air pushing down on that stuff. I remember Mark coming off the race track and we had a 2-inch gap from the bottom of the glass to the deck lid when we came in from practice and had to modify all that stuff.
“We’re going to learn from this. It’s not something that we wanted to happen. You definitely don’t want the back of the roof sharp. You want the roof round and you want that to be a smooth transition. I think everybody thinks that it helped. I would suggest that it didn’t help. The car was plenty fast enough before that happened. I think everybody in the garage knows that and it’s just something we need to put behind us and move on.
“The biggest thing is getting it fixed and making sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
The No. 55 team was also penalized on Wednesday, receiving a safety violation for an unsecured lug nut after the race at Las Vegas. Crew chief Todd Parrott was fined $10,000 as a result.