Kevin Harvick raises questions about NASCAR penalty

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Kevin Harvick was ready for the questions about his team’s penalty Friday at ISM Raceway.

As NASCAR’s moderator asked the driver about his success at the track, Harvick said: “Nobody wants to talk about that, let’s just go to the first question.’’

So began a press conference where Harvick set the tone. He questioned NASCAR’s penalty, said NASCAR’s reaction was done to “appease” social media, and raised issue with a penalty coming out days after the event.

MORE: Is social media influencing NASCAR penalties?

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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 NASCAR R&D center. They could find something wrong with every car if they took it apart for a whole day at the R&D center.’’

NASCAR ruled Wednesday that the rear window bracing had not kept the rear window glass rigid in all directions at all times during Sunday’s race — an issue raised shortly after the race on social media via pictures of Harvick’s car. NASCAR also stated that car’s side skirts were not aluminum.

NASCAR docked Harvick the seven playoff points he earned in his Las Vegas victory (race win and two stage wins), took 20 driver points from him, fined crew chief Rodney Childers $50,000, suspended the team’s car chief two races and docked the team 20 owner points

“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.”

Asked if he would he would have won without those issues at Las Vegas, Harvick said: “Absolutely. Hands down.’’

Harvick said it was the team’s fault for having steel side skirts, noting the team overlooked a recent bulletin noting the change. Harvick said a window brace failed. 

You could have called the window attached to the brace penalty on 20 cars last week, easy,’’ he said.

Harvick said that finding penalties via pictures on social media was going down a “slippery slope.’’

“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,” he said. “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.”

Harvick suggested that social media helping officials with rules only will repeat what happened in golf.

“I compare it to golf,’’ he said. “It failed miserably when you look at Lexi Thompson and the outrage of the players and things that have happened the last couple years.’’

LPGA officials — after being alerted via email from a television viewer— assessed a four-stroke penalty to Thompson during one of the tour’s major championship events last April. The infraction happened in the third round and wasn’t discovered until the next day when Thompson had six holes to play in the final round. She went from being three strokes ahead to down by one. She lost in a playoff.

That’s why Harvick suggest officials are the best to handle penalties.

“The officials in the garage do a great job,’’ he 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.

Harvick also raised questions about penalties coming out well after an event.

“The root of the problem is that my friends that don’t follow racing are very confused on a penalty that comes out on Wednesday,’’ he said. “That is the part we need to fix.’’

Until then, he has a plan for what he’ll do the next time he wins.

I can’t wait to win another race,” he said, and jump up and down in victory lane on the back of my car.”

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