Greg Zipadelli

NASCAR penalizes Kevin Harvick’s team for window brace; side skirt


NASCAR fined crew chief Rodney Childers $50,000 and suspended car chief Robert Smith two Cup races for a violation with a brace on Kevin Harvick’s winning car from last weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR announced Wednesday that it was penalizing Harvick 20 driver points and the team 20 owner points for the L1 infraction. Harvick also is docked the seven playoff points he earned at Las Vegas – five for his win and two for each stage he won.

Harvick drops from the points lead with the violation. He now has six playoff points instead of 13.

NASCAR stated in the penalty report that the 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 extension was not aluminum.

Stewart-Haas Racing issued a statement from Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition: “Late today, NASCAR made us aware of a penalty they’re imposing on our No. 4 Cup Series team. We’re going to take the time and evaluate our options, and we plan to continue dialogue with NASCAR to fully understand the rationale behind the penalty.”

The team has three days to decide if to appeal the penalty.

Harvick’s victory at Las Vegas was his second consecutive win this season. 

The anomaly with his car was discussed during the race by Chase Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson on the radio. Social media posted pictures and raised questions about the car’s legality after the race.

Childers said a brace failed, causing part of the rear window to sink during the race.

“We’re going to learn from this,’’ Childers said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s not something that we wanted to happen. You definitely don’t want the back of the roof sharp. You want the back of the roof round and you want that to be a smooth transition. I think that everybody thinks that it helps. I would suggest that it probably didn’t help.’’

NASCAR also announced that crew chief Todd Parrott had been fined $10,000 because the No. 55 Cup team had a lug nut not secured at the end of the Las Vegas race.

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Kevin Harvick leads Stewart-Haas Racing to best result since last summer

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It was a nice moment but it also is time for Stewart-Haas Racing to move on. Another race beckons.

Kevin Harvick’s victory, along with a third-place finish by Clint Bowyer and an eighth-place result by Kurt Busch marked the first time in 18 races — the equivalent of half a season — that Stewart-Haas Racing placed three cars in the top 10. The last time the organization did that was at New Hampshire in July when Harvick led the way with a fifth-place result.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s fourth car, driven by Aric Almirola, ran in the top 10 part of the day at Atlanta Motor Speedway before finishing 13th.

Sunday’s performance was quite an accomplishment for the Ford team in light of questions at the beginning of the season of how well such teams would do since they had the oldest body compared to rivals Toyota (updated last year) and Chevrolet (new car this year).

Greg Zipadelli, SHR’s vice president of competition, was pleased but also looking ahead to next weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“This is a place that’s all about grip, and drivers got to like it,’’ Zipadelli said of Atlanta. “By no means are we out of the woodwork. We’re headed to Vegas, which is a complete opposite type of a racetrack next week, so we’ll look at where we’re at and judge ourselves again next week.  But awesome win. ‘’

Sunday was a good start. Harvick and Busch combined to lead 233 of the 325 laps (Harvick led a race-high 181 laps). Harvick won the opening stage and had Bowyer second, Almirola fifth and Busch eighth. In the second stage, Busch was second, Harvick fifth, Almirola eighth and Bowyer ninth.

“We unloaded with four fast cars, and we all worked together really well, and hopefully we’ll do the same thing in Vegas and be able to enjoy that same success,’’ Bowyer said.

It’s also not surprising the success Stewart-Haas Racing had with its experienced driver lineup. The top eight finishers all have raced full-time in Cup at least eight seasons entering this year.

“There’s no coincidence,’’ Harvick said.  “You know, this is a race track that takes a lot of experience, and there’s a lot of things that you have to know about your car and know about the race track to get the car around the race track. This is where experience pays off at these types of race tracks for sure.’’

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Long: Tony Stewart finally gets chance to go to victory lane after a Daytona 500 win

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Tony Stewart was among the last to arrive to Daytona International Speedway’s victory lane Sunday night.

The future NASCAR Hall of Famer walked in to little fanfare, as cameras of all shapes and sizes focused on Kurt Busch, who drove through a maze of wrecked vehicles and then by fuel-starved cars in the final laps to win Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Stewart, now just a NASCAR owner after retiring from the series last season, arrived to the packed victory lane moments before Busch emerged from his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

Stewart was finally in victory lane for a Daytona 500.

No other track has teased, tormented and tortured Stewart like Daytona. Sure, he has 19 total wins here, but it only makes what transpired in 17 Daytona 500s so vexing.

“We probably could have, should have won four or five of them and they got away,’’ said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart’s longtime crew chief who later became the competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Few hurt as much as the 2007 race when Stewart had one of the dominant cars before losing control and crashing into Busch.

Their paths intertwined in the 2008 Daytona 500 when Busch pushed Ryan Newman by Stewart on the final lap to help Newman win. Stewart finished third.

Stewart said he couldn’t look at Zipadelli for the week after that race, feeling he cost the team the win by not moving up to block Newman’s run.

There were other disappointments.

A favorite in 2002 after his Clash win, Stewart ran only two laps before his engine blew. He finished last. So frustrated, Stewart drove back to North Carolina instead of flying home.

Such disappointments became a pattern. The three-time series champion would excel in the events leading up to the 500 but be denied a victory in the sport’s biggest race.

His chances of winning faded in his final years driving in the series. His final three Daytona 500 appearances ended in finishes of 41st, 35th and 42nd before he missed last year’s race because of a back injury suffered a few weeks before the race.

No year could compare to 2001. Stewart tumbled down the backstretch and was taken to Halifax Health Medical Center. As Stewart was being treated, Dale Earnhardt was transported there after suffering fatal injuries in his last-lap crash.

Stewart went on to become one of the dominant voices in the garage in the following years. Five years after Earnhardt’s death, Stewart complained about the style of racing and said that if it continued “we’re going to kill somebody.’’

Stewart hated how blocking became prevalent — and necessary — to win restrictor-plate races. Even though he missed last year’s 500 because of his back injury, he made it clear he wouldn’t come back to run this event one more time because he never had won it.

It appeared as if his streak would continue Sunday even as an owner. Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Danica Patrick and Clint Bowyer were eliminated by accidents. Kevin Harvick’s damaged car finished 22nd.

When Busch was the only SHR car left on the lead lap, Stewart moved to Busch’s pit box.

Although Busch ran near the front it seemed only a matter of time before something would happen to him. After all, Busch was winless in 63 career restrictor-plate points races before Sunday.

Even when Busch crossed the finish line ahead of Ryan Blaney and AJ Allmendinger, Busch’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, didn’t react. It took him a few moments to register what had happened. Stewart helped.

“You just won the Daytona 500!’’ Stewart told Gibson.

Stewart then turned to Zipadelli.

“Hey buddy, we finally got one of these.’’

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Social roundup: A NASCAR snow day

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The start of the NASCAR season is still over a month away but there was a different kind of excitement taking over NASCAR nation Saturday.


A winter storm blanketed some of the East Coast, including parts of North Carolina inhabited by NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs, and many others. Which means it didn’t take long for snow day pictures to start surfacing on social media.

Side note: Props to Logano and company for including one of the partners on his No. 22 Ford, Coca-Cola.


While most of the NASCAR community was enjoying the snow, a few did escape to warmer parts to take care of some important business: Getting married.

Also tying the knot is 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch and Ashley Van Metre.

Frustrations boil after pit road problems keep Kevin Harvick out of victory lane again


DARLINGTON, S.C. — Stewart-Haas Racing’s Greg Zipadelli said he was almost too mad to talk, crew chief Rodney Childers didn’t talk, but Kevin Harvick did, blasting his pit crew after pit road problems again cost him a victory, this time in Sunday’s Southern 500.

Harvick went from first to 12th on a pit stop on Lap 280 after a problem with the rear tire changer’s air gun. That came after a slow pit stop on Lap 251 dropped Harvick from first to fifth after an issue with the right front.

The result was that despite leading a race-high 214 of 367 laps, Harvick finished second to Martin Truex Jr. at Darlington Raceway.

“Just the same old thing,’’ Harvick said. “You get into position where you bring a dominant car. The guys in the shop and the guys in the garage are doing a great job. The guys on pit road are doing a terrible job.

“You get into position to win races and they continually step on their toes and don’t make it happen.’’

So what needs to be done?

“That’s a good question for Rodney and Greg,’’ Harvick said.

Childers declined to talk after the race, but Zipadelli, vice president of competition at Stewart-Haas Racing, did.

“I’m pulling my hair out,’’ Zipadelli said. “We’ve changed people there, we’ve done things. They have a good week, they have a bad stop, they come back and have good stops.

“The one deal that really put them behind, something happened with the gun. The bottom line, the guy sitting in the seat? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to anybody why it happens. It just can’t happen.’’

Three pit crew members remain from Harvick’s championship team in 2014 — front tire carrier Todd Drakulich, rear tire changer Daniel Smith and rear tire carrier Mike Morneau. All joined Harvick’s team before the Chase that year when Stewart-Haas Racing swapped Tony Stewart’s pit crew with Harvick’s crew because of issues with Harvick’s crew.

“We’ve changed two people on there and the stops got better,’’ Zipadelli said. “Bristol, they had a couple of issues (but bounced back as Harvick won). Here tonight had really solid stops in the first half of the race, did everything they needed to do. Gun breaks and then everybody tries to make up for everything and you rush and you try to go harder and it doesn’t work.’’

Even with such a simple explanation, Zipadelli admitted the frustration with the pit road woes left him “so mad, it’s hard for me to talk.’’

While pit road has been a problem for Harvick’s team at times since he joined Stewart-Haas Racing, Zipadelli hinted that Sunday night’s issue might have been more with equipment than personnel.

“What happened there today certainly wasn’t the tire changer,’’ Zipadelli said of the stop that dropped Harvick from first to 12th. “There’s other issues is what I’m alluding to without getting into details.’’