Kevin Harvick joined the media on Friday at ISM Raceway for the first time since his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team were hit with major penalties on Wednesday. The infractions were found following the weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where they concluded the day in victory lane after leading 214 of 267 laps.
The team will lose car chief Robert Smith for two races while crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000. The team violated sections 18.104.22.168 (Rear Window Support and Structure b. & c.) and 20.4.18 (Rocker Panel Extensions .b Note: Rear Window Support Braces must keep the rear window glass rigid in all directions at all times. The Right Side Rocker Panel Extension did not meet NASCAR rule specifications).
The playoff points earned at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will not count towards the playoffs.
Harvick believes that his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team still would had won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway despite the issue.
“Absolutely. Hands down. If you look at Atlanta, the car was there the week before. Same team, same window bracing, same roof, same side skirts, same everything. It was in the R&D center the week before. It has been there 49 times in three years. Technicalities. If you have to find a technicality that is that deep, that is the thing that is frustrating from a team standpoint and especially the explanation when you look at the window bracing and the way the window is attached to the car. You could call that penalty on any car in the field at some point. I have had window braces smashed in the front of my car, several times. They fail all the time in the front.
The conversation started during the race when numerous fans pointed out the odd issue. Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet, also mentioned the issue during the Pennzoil 400 on his team radio. It is unclear at what time NASCAR became aware of it during the race.
“If we want to officiate it with fan pictures - if you want to officiate it with pictures during the race and call people to pit road and do those types of things, from a NASCAR standpoint I am fine with that,” Harvick later added. “As long as it is consistent. As you can see, from a lot of the pictures roaming around on the internet this week, it is not consistent.”
Harvick doesn’t believe his team would have been penalized had fans not noticed and posted pictures on social media.
“I don’t think so. That is a slippery slope. You see the repercussions of all the pictures and things that pop up from previous races that immediately show that is not something that has ever been taken before. Sometimes you just feel like you have maybe been proven a point. I think that is more the case than anything here. Like I said, I compare it to golf. It failed miserably when you look at Lexi Thompson and the outrage of the players and things that have happened the last couple years. The root of the problem is that my friends that don’t follow racing are very confused on a penalty that comes out on Wednesday. I listened to Sirius XM this week and Darrell Waltrip's explanation of how all this should go is dead on. That is the part we need to fix. If we have a fine, I am fine with that. I am going to go race the car, we will put the cars together and we will get over it and move on and the cars will run great and we will do all the things we want to do. As a sport, that is something that we have all been talking about. That was definitely something that the optical scanning station was definitely supposed to help alleviate. That is what we have been told. When there are things wrong, things fail, things happen, they still have to officiate the sport but when it comes out on Tuesday, to the casual fan it is very confusing.”
Harvick is also scratching his head wondering why car chief Robert Smith was suspended instead of crew chief Rodney Childers.
“Nick was car chief at the 47. We have a car chief that has done that before. That is the other confusing part about the penalty. If it is such a big deal, why is my crew chief still here? I don’t understand that. You have so many guys that do the same thing every week and Nick has been the car chief and is the guy that sets all the cars up in the shop. Rodney is a key player in that but the confusing part about it is you have this huge penalty but your crew chief doesn’t get suspended. A lot of confusion in my mind.”
The car was also found with an unapproved rocker panel on the right side of the car. The piece of the side skirt around the exit of the exhaust pipe was not made of aluminum. NASCAR or the team has not released what metal was used.
It is still unclear whether or not they will appeal any of the L1 penalties.