Kevin Harvick took NASCAR officiating to task Friday morning at ISM Raceway after his Stewart-Haas Racing team was hit with an L1-level penalty earlier this week following post-Vegas inspection at the R&D Center. To start, the loss of the seven playoff points was not fair in Harvick’s mind.
“The whole thing started with the roof braces not working in the car, which are non-mandatory braces that exist in the back of the roof,” Harvick said. “That is what squished down. The window bracing itself, there were no issues with. When you look at the perpendicular bar, there is no specific way it says it has to be connected. Ours is connected.
“As you look at the bracing itself, there was no issue with that. The roof caved in, pulled the back and top of the window down, and that’s really the root of the social media outrage that came after the race.”
The No.4 did pass post-race inspection at the racetrack, including the optical scanning station. And Harvick made note that the car was built to the tolerance.
“The scary part for me is the fact that we went far enough to find something on the car at the NASCAR R&D Center,” Harvick continued. “They could find something wrong with every car if they took it apart for a whole day at the R&D Center.”
However, Harvick did admit that the penalty for the material of the rocker panel (known as the side skirt), which has to be made of aluminum, was a team error.
“That’s really kind of the meat of what gave them the ability to actually get the fine to where it was meaningful enough to appease everyone on social media,” said Harvick. “When you look at that, instead of explaining it correctly with the roof bracing that failed and explaining that there was probably 20-some cars in the field that you could call that same penalty on for the bracing and windshield attachment.
“If you really want to go through all the pictures, that is a slippery slope. We saw a lot of pictures pop up from previous years and previous events and some events this year of window bracing failures, which we didn’t have. Windows not attached to the bracing. It is what it is.”
Harvick lost 20 driver and owner points, as well as the seven playoff points he earned last weekend during a dominating performance at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Car chief Robert Smith has also been suspended for two weeks.
But Harvick was not impressed by NASCAR’s decision and went as far as to say the outcry by fans on social media played a role. Asked if he thought his team would have been penalized without the social media discussion, Harvick said he didn’t think so.
“It just motivates us [for this weekend,” he said. “I can’t wait to win another race and jump up and down in Victory Lane on the back window of my car.”
To eliminate fan policing, the 2014 Cup Series champion said NASCAR should not have its executives on social media during a race. Harvick twice compared the situation to golf and the “chaos” caused when a viewer emailed officials about a rule infraction made by Lexi Thompson during the ANA Inspiration tournament in April 2017, which then led to a penalty.
“The officials in the garage do a great job and it just feels like it’s a micromanaged situation from above what these guys do in the garage to appease people sitting on social media and trying to officiate a sporting event,” said Harvick. “Instead of letting these guys in the garage do what they do and do a great job with it week in and week out. That’s the frustrating part.
“When my crew chief left the R&D Center he felt like there was nothing that they found and no issues with the car and then you see the penalty pop up Wednesday night.”
Harvick offered an “absolutely” when asked if he still would have won the race with the window situated where it should have been. According to him, the same car with the same window bracing passed inspection at the R&D Center a week earlier after winning at Atlanta.
Near the end of his media availability, Harvick couldn’t contain a laugh about the whole ordeal, saying:
“That’s another confusing part about the penalty – if it’s such a big deal, why is my crew chief here? I don’t understand.”