DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kevin Harvick’s road to the Championship 4 hit a major roadblock Wednesday morning, when NASCAR officials levied sweeping penalties against the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team for a spoiler violation that occurred last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
Harvick’s team was found to be in violation of Section 20.4.12 of the NASCAR Rule Book, which pertains specifically to spoilers and notes that spoilers must be used exactly as supplied from the manufacturer and not altered in any way.
The infraction was discovered during post-race teardown at the NASCAR Research & Development Center on Tuesday following Harvick’s dominant victory at the 1.5-mile superspeedway.
As a result of the L1-level infraction, Harvick has been docked 40 championship driver points and the team has been docked 40 championship owner points. The Texas victory no longer guarantees the team a spot in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18 and Harvick cannot use the win as a tiebreaker in the event of a tie in the standings.
The 40-point deduction drops Harvick to fourth in the provisional playoff standings, just three markers ahead of the cut line for elimination. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch is the first driver outside the top four in fifth.
Joey Logano is the only driver guaranteed a spot in the Championship 4 as the series heads to the desert for the penultimate round Sunday at ISM Raceway.
Crew chief Rodney Childers was also fined $75,000 and Childers and car chief Robert Smith have both been suspended two races apiece as a result of the penalties announced on Wednesday morning.
“It is not our desire to issue any penalties, but we will do so when necessary to ensure each race and championship is contested on a level playing field,” said NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller.
Stewart-Haas Racing officials do not plan to appeal the penalties.
“We work tirelessly across every inch of our race cars to create speed and, unfortunately, NASCAR determined we ventured into an area not accommodated by its rule book,” said Greg Zipadelli, SHR’s vice president of competition. “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 race track.”
Tony Gibson will serve as Harvick’s interim crew chief while Childers is suspended, while Nick DeFazio will be the interim car chief for the No. 4 team.
Wednesday’s announcement puts Harvick in a unique position heading to Arizona’s ISM Raceway, which has statistically been his best race track over the course of his Cup Series career.
Harvick has a series-leading nine wins at the one-mile desert oval, as well as 15 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes in 31 starts and an average finish of 9.5. He also won this year’s spring race at ISM Raceway back in March.
Two additional Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series penalties were also announced on Wednesday.
The No. 12 Team Penske Ford, driven by second-place finisher Ryan Blaney, was assessed an L1-level penalty for a violation of Section 18.104.22.168.b of the NASCAR Rule Book, which pertains to door front crush panels.
Crew chief Jeremy Bullins has been fined $50,000 for the violation, while car chief Kirk Almquist has been suspended from the next two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points events.
Blaney was also docked 20 driver points and Team Penske lost 20 owner points.
Meanwhile, the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of fourth-place finishing Erik Jones was assessed an L1-level penalty for a violation of Sections 20.4.h Body & 22.214.171.124.b of the NASCAR Rule Book, pertaining to the package tray of the race car.
As a result of that infraction, crew chief Chris Gayle has been fined $50,000 and car chief Jason Overstreet has been suspended from the next two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points events.
Jones was also docked 20 driver points and Joe Gibbs Racing lost 20 owner points.
In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the No. 35 team of driver Brennan Poole was assessed a safety violation for a loss of ballast weight from the truck during practice on Thursday.
That issue is covered under Section 20.3.4 of the NASCAR Rule Book.
Crew chief Ryan Bell, truck chief Jerry Kennedy and mechanic Patrick Magee have been suspended for the next three NASCAR Truck Series points events, running through Feb. 20, 2019, because of the ballast weight violation.