By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
Kevin Harvick’s bid for a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship took a detour on Wednesday after the sanctioning body handed down penalties stemming from last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Harvick had locked himself into the Championship 4 at Homestead with his Texas win, which was his eighth victory of the season, but his No. 4 Ford was found to have an illegal spoiler in post-race inspection at the NASCAR R&D Center.
Because of the infraction, which violates Section 20.4.12 of the NASCAR Rule Book (Vehicle spoiler must conform to the CAD file and drawing. Spoilers must be used exactly as supplied from the manufacturer.), Harvick’s win will no longer count toward automatic advancement to Homestead.
The team was also docked 40 driver and owner points, along with crew chief Rodney Childers and car chief Robert Smith being suspended from the next two races at Phoenix and Homestead. Childers was also fined $75,000.
After adding up all of the penalties, Harvick now sits fourth in points, just three points above the cut-line, with only Phoenix remaining to determine who makes the Championship 4.
The team had the opportunity to appeal the penalty, but per Greg Zipadelli, Stewart Haas Racing’s Vice President of Competition, the team has elected to forego the appeal and focus their efforts toward Phoenix.
“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,” Zipadelli said. “We will not appeal the penalty. Instead, we will direct our immediate focus to this weekend’s event in Phoenix and control our destiny on the racetrack.”
Two other teams that were taken to the R&D Center were also slapped with penalties on Wednesday, including runner-up Ryan Blaney and fourth-place finisher Erik Jones.
Blaney’s No. 12 team had issues with the door front crush panels, leading to a $50,000 fine for crew chief Jeremy Bullins, a two race suspension for car chief Kirk Almquist, and the loss of 20 driver and owner points.
Jones’ No. 20 team had both body and package tray violations (Air cannot pass from one area of the vehicle interior to another. Vehicle package tray must remain flat and straight, front to back, with one break.), leading to the same penalties for crew chief Chris Gayle and car chief Jason Overstreet, along with similar points deductions.