In an iteration of this column that ran about 15 years ago, I made predictions on the upcoming race winner.
And I was terrible. I think that season I got two right and they were absolute gimmes.
But, if I were doing the predictions now, I would have gotten the last one correct. Kevin Harvick versus the field would have been a no-brainer with the No. 4 Ford coming off two wins in a row and being more than a little angry at a post-race penalty after the win at Las Vegas. Plus, it was Phoenix, where Harvick is the all-time career wins leader.
In case you missed it, Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing team was hit with a major fine and points loss after winning Las Vegas for a rear window brace issue that left the right side of the glass dipped during the event.
Officially and technically: “Rear Window Support Braces must keep the rear window glass rigid in all directions at all times. The Right SideRocker Panel Extension did not meet NASCAR rule specifications, extension was not aluminum.”
The unnecessary capitalized words let me know an engineer wrote this. These people need a style guide.
Crew chief (Rodney Childers) has been fined $50,000. Car chief (Robert Smith) has been suspended from the next two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Points Events. Team has been assessed with the loss of 20 driver points and 20 owner points.
I wrote last year about Chase Elliott and a penalty for a piece of tape on the spoiler that was spotted by a viewer on TV and then talked about on a Reddit thread. I don’t want to say we have a similar situation here, but golfer Lexi Thompson’s name has come up again. (Thompson lost a tournament a few years ago when a viewer called in to report a violation not picked up by LGPA officials).
“The car was built to tolerance,” Harvick said. “The scary part for me is the fact that we went far enough to find something on the car at the R&D center, which they could find something wrong with every car if they took it apart for a whole day at the R&D center.”
Harvick believes the penalty was to “appease everybody on social media” after video and photos of the car with the depressed rear window popped up everywhere Sunday night and through the day Monday. He said that you could find pictures of cars with the same issue from previous races that had the same rear-glass look.
“That’s a slippery slope because you see the repercussions of all the pictures and things that pop up from previous races and immediately show that’s not something that has ever been taken (into account) before. Sometimes you feel like you get a bit (used as an example) proving a point…,” Harvick said.
I’ll say the same thing I said about it last time: NASCAR should catch this stuff at the track, and if they don’t, the teams win.
Like Harvick said, every car would fail something if taken back to the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord. The reality is that everyone has something cheated up on their car; my favorite sports maxim: if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.
NASCAR has implemented this new, fancy laser inspection system that cars roll through more than once each race weekend. They are as sophisticated as they come when it comes to regulating the cars, but the teams – especially the good ones – know how to nibble the margins and push the gray area into decidedly black.
If you take car back to R&D and you find something, that’s great. Look for the infraction next time you go to the track. Again, you missed it. Learn from it, and get ‘em next time.
Even Kyle Busch thinks it’s garbage and it’s something when I agree with Kyle Busch.
For his part, Harvick was just ready to get back to racing and put it behind the team.
“We’re going to get over it. We’re going to move on,” Harvick said. “I can’t wait to win another race and jump up and down in Victory Lane on the back of my car.”
Well, he didn’t have to wait long and took his shots and got the final word on this issue.
“This really felt more important than winning at Homestead, to race for a championship,” Harvick told Fox Sports in victory lane after his 40th career victory. “Just to drive it home for all those supporters out there.
“And all you haters, I see you.”
Let ‘em hate. Just make sure they spell your name right.
Andy Cagle, a former spokesman for Rockingham Speedway and motorsports public relations consultant, writes about NASCAR in a weekly column.