Is social media going too far in influencing NASCAR penalties?

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Kevin Harvick believes social media played a role in his team’s penalty this week, and Kyle Busch says series officials should “not pay attention to it sometimes and do what they think is best for the sport.’’

The role social media could have in influencing NASCAR officials has grown since photos of the rear window of Harvick’s car were posted shortly after his victory last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR penalized Harvick’s team Wednesday for a rear window brace that failed and also for having steel side skirts instead of aluminum. NASCAR docked Harvick the seven playoff points he earned, fined crew chief Rodney Childers $50,000 and suspended the team’s car chief two races, among other penalties.

Asked if his team would have been penalized without the pressure of fans on social media, Harvick said Friday: “I don’t think so.’’

This marks the second time since last year’s playoffs that social media has been viewed as playing a role in a penalty. Last September, a post on Reddit noted that a crew member appeared to remove tape from the top of the spoiler of Chase Elliott’s car while he did an interview on NBCSN after the race.

NASCAR responded two days later by suspending crew chief Alan Gustafson and the team’s car chief one race each along with a 15-point penalty for Elliott, among other penalties. NASCAR stated that modification of components to affect the aerodynamic properties of the vehicle was not allowed.

Asked if he was concerned that NASCAR has made decisions based on social media, Busch didn’t hesitate Friday.

“Absolutely,’’ he said. 

Joey Logano doesn’t it see it that way.

“I wouldn’t assume that NASCAR makes calls off of social media,’’ he said Friday at ISM Raceway. “I wouldn’t think that is the case. I would think NASCAR is bigger than that.’’

Busch worries social media has become too loud in some cases.

“I think there’s too many voices,’’ he said when asked if the perceived social media impact on officiating as a good thing or bad thing.

“I think the powers that be that are way higher than me need to figure out how to shut that off and not pay attention to it sometimes, and do what they think is best for the sport as what we’ve done for 60 years. It seems the last 10 (years) especially has been more so. And listening to those that are watching it and those who are watching it have too many varying opinions. You’re not going to please them all. It doesn’t seem as though we’re setting ourselves up for the best going forward by listening to too many of them.”

Harvick said he had a solution on how not to let social media influence series officials.

“Keep your executives off of it during the race,’’ he said.

Harvick noted the issues social media has presented in calling for penalties in golf, mentioning the penalty to Lexi Thompson in an LPGA major in April.

A viewer emailed tournament officials alerting them to an infraction Thompson committed the day before. After reviewing the situation, she was issued a four-stroke penalty. She was notified of the penalty with six holes left in the final round. The penalty dropped her out of the lead. She eventually lost in a playoff.

In December, the U.S. Golf Association and the game’s major professional tours announced they would no longer accept calls and emails from fans who think they have spotted rules violations. The governing bodies, in conjunction with the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America, agreed to assign at least one rules official to monitor all tournament telecasts and resolve any rules issues.

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