Kevin Harvick no longer locked into Championship 4 after heavy NASCAR penalty

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 04: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, takes the checkered flag to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 4, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Stewart-Haas Racing team of Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Ford were issued an L1-Level penalty by NASCAR Wednesday.  The penalty has major consequences to Harvick’s championship bid.

Harvick won the Texas race last Sunday which should have given him an automatic spot in the Championship 4  at Homestead in two weeks. NASCAR took the winning Ford back to the R&D Center in Concord NC.  After a tear down, the sanctioning body said that the team violated Section 20.4.12 of the NASCAR Rule Book that is specific to spoilers. Spoilers must be used exactly as supplied from the manufacturer and not altered.

Harvick was penalized 40 driver points and the team lost 40 owner points as well. Harvick’s win at Texas no longer automatically qualifies the team for the Championship 4 in Miami. He will enter this weekend’s Round of 8 finale fourth among eight playoff drivers in the standings, three points above the cutline – should there be a tie for the final transfer spot, Harvick cannot use the Texas win in the tiebreaking procedure.

In addition, crew chief Rodney Childers and car chief Robert Smith have been suspended for the next two races – ISM Raceway at Phoenix and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Childers also has been fined $75,000.

Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Vice President of Competition, said in a statement that the team would not appeal the penalty. Tony Gibson, SHR production manager, will serve as interim crew chief for the No. 4 team and Nick DeFazio will be its interim car chief.

“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,” Zipadelli said in the SHR statement. “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.”

Other Monster Energy Series penalties announced in the Wednesday penalty report were:

• An L1-level infraction to the No. 12 Team Penske camp. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins is fined $50,000, and car chief Kirk Almquist is suspended for the next two races. Driver Ryan Blaney loses 20 driver points, and the team loses 20 owner points. According to NASCAR, the team violated Section Door Front Crush Panels Note: All filler panels must remain permanently attached for the entire event. Rule applied to race finish as a post-race L1 infraction

• An L1-level infraction to the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team. Crew chief Chris Gayle is fined $50,000, and car chief Jason Overstreet is suspended for the next two races. Driver Erik Jones loses 20 driver points, and the team loses 20 owner points. NASCAR said the team violated Sections 20.4.h Body & Package Tray Note: Air cannot pass from one area of the vehicle interior to another. Vehicle package tray must remain flat and straight, front to back, with one break. Rule applied to race finish as a post-race L1 infraction.

Greg Engle