Stewart-Haas Racing was penalized this week, sanctions Kevin Harvick believes had mostly to do with what fans were saying on social media.
Kevin Harvick believes fans caused an unnecessary uproar on social media regarding the legality of his rear windshield, essentially forcing NASCAR to issue heavy penalties against the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 team this week.
After Harvick won Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, several photos were posted online showing the upper right corner of his rear windshield had bowed-in. NASCAR officials initially cleared the car during post-race technical inspection, but upon further examination at its research and development center it was determined the windshield did not stay rigid.
On Wednesday, NASCAR disciplined Harvick and SHR. Those penalties include Harvick losing 20 regular season points and being stripped of the seven playoff points he earned at Las Vegas — five for the overall victory and one for each stage win. Crew chief Rodney Childers was also fined $50,000, while car chief Robert Smith was suspended two races.
Harvick disagreed with the sanctions when speaking to reporters Friday at ISM Raceway, site of Sunday’s Cup Series race. He contends his rear windshield only buckled because of a parts failure and there would have been no penalties without the backlash on social media.
“The officials in the garage do a great job,” Harvick said. “It just feels like it is 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 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 is the frustrating part.”
NASCAR also found the extension of the lower side skirt on the No. 4 car was made with steel instead of aluminum. That infraction Harvick said SHR accepts responsibility for, though Harvick thinks this then opened the door for NASCAR to appease those who thought Harvick should be penalized for his nonconforming rear windshield.
”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.
”The side skirt material is on us — that’s really the meat of what gave them the ability to actually [to issue the penalty] where it was meaningful to appease everybody on social media.”
Twenty cars could’ve been penalized for a similar rear windshield issue, Harvick said, and only because he won the race did he face additional scrutiny. He has no issue with NASCAR policing the sport, but does take exception with fans being allowed to interject themselves into the process and for NASCAR then reacting.
Harvick, the 2014 Cup Series champion, compared the situation to professional golf where a longstanding policy allowed fans to call-in and report rules violations they saw while watching on television. That practice was amended last year.
“That is a slippery slope,” Harvick said. “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.
“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. 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.”
Further confounding Harvick was why NASCAR considered the infraction serious enough to warrant stiff penalties, yet Childers was not suspended while someone who reports to him is out two races. Smith is eligible to return for the March 25 race at Martinsville Speedway.
“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,” Harvick said. “A lot of confusion in my mind.”
What Harvick isn’t confused about it is how he’ll act the next time he wins a race.
“It just motivates us,” he said. “I can’t wait to win another race and jump up and down in victory lane on the back of my car.”