With penalties getting ‘borderline ridiculous,’ NASCAR will consider harsher punishments

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Saying that “I think we’re getting into borderline ridiculous territory,” with violations, NASCAR’s Scott Miller said Wednesday night that the sanctioning body is considering stiffer penalties next year for cars that fail inspection.

Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, explained to reporters Wednesday night how the violation with Kevin Harvick’s spoiler was discovered, how it was evident that the spoiler had been tampered to improve performance in Harvick’s win at Texas Motor Speedway and how series officials will change inspection procedures starting this weekend at Phoenix.

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Miller said that NASCAR will change its inspection procedure at the track starting this weekend at Phoenix. Inspectors now will remove cars’ spoilers instead of just checking their shapes and sizes.

“We will try to do that in pre‑inspection, and then I think that we have enough eyes to know if a spoiler comes off a car, then we go on high alert on that one,” Miller said.

Miller said that the spoiler on Harvick’s car was offset to the right by 200- to 300-thousandths of an inch.

“This met the shape, and it met the height, and we don’t check at track the offset of the spoiler because it’s supposed to be a standard part that bolts to a standard deck lid,” Miller said. “So that location of the spoiler to the deck lid is a given as long as the standard parts are used.”

As the winner Sunday, Harvick’s car was one of the vehicles taken back to NASCAR R&D Center for further inspection. Miller said “there was something that one of the inspectors saw that kind of made them a little bit suspicious, and that’s why we took it off when the car got back to the R&D Center.”

Miller said the spoiler did not conform to the CAD file that NASCAR had for the part.

“Getting the spoiler further to the right actually … that puts more air on the spoiler, and that’s definitely (an) aerodynamic performance (advantage),” Miller said.

That’s why NASCAR penalized Harvick by stripping his berth in the championship race for the L1 penalty, docking Harvick a maximum 40 points, the team 40 points, fining crew chief Rodney Childers a maximum $75,000 and suspending Childers and car chief Robert Smith two races each.

Miller said that series officials did look into if the infraction was an L2 penalty, which would have been a 75-point penalty, six-race suspension and fine of between $100,000 and $200,000 but determined that the infraction was an L1 penalty.

Miller said if there is an issue in next weekend’s championship race in Miami, the matter will be dealt with that night. Cars will not be taken to the R&D Center after that race. Cars will undergo complete inspection at the track just as the winning car does after the Daytona 500.

“We’ll just ramp up the intensity of keeping people with eyes on those cars throughout the weekend and scrutinize those cars heavily, both before and after the race,” he said.

As for next year, changes could be coming to the penalties for various inspection infractions.

“We’re looking at the whole deterrence model and trying to review that over the winter and possibly put more teeth in it, because yeah, I think we’re getting into borderline ridiculous territory,” Miller said.

“We’ve heard the fans kind of call out for, why don’t you disqualify the offending car, and I mean, that’s actually a topic of discussion along with many other things related to the deterrence model.

“With any of those, there’s a lot of things to work through and a lot of things to consider, especially when you kind of get to the disqualification level or something like that. You know, like there’s a lot of knockoff effects from that as to how the rest of the field shakes out and all that.

“But certainly points, deterrence models, fines, suspensions, all that stuff is always on our plate during the winter. We always review what has happened in the current race season and always are looking to improve that process.”

NASCAR Awards: Scene on the red carpet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community gathered at the Music City Center to commemorate the 2022 season and celebrate Joey Logano‘s second Cup title.

The event can be seen at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Here is a look at the scene on the red carpet before Thursday night’s NASCAR Awards:

Joey Logano and Brittany Logano (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ryan Blaney and Gianna Tulio (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle and Samantha Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Elliott (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Alex Bowman and Crystal Marsh (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Tyler Reddick and Alexa De Leon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Denny Hamlin and Jordan Fish (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Daniel Suarez and Julia Piquet (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Briscoe and Marissa Briscoe (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Christopher Bell and Morgan Bell (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Dillon and Whitney Dillon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle Larson (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

William Byron and Erin Blaney (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ross Chastain and Erika Turner (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Cindric (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kurt Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Harrison Burton and Jenna Petty(Photo: Dustin Long)
Mario Andretti (Photo: Dustin Long)

Chase Elliott wins NMPA Most Popular Driver Award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott won his fifth consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Elliott is one of only five drivers to win the award since 1984.

Bill Elliott won it from 1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002. Dale Earnhardt won the award posthumously in 2001. Darrell Waltrip won it in 1989-90. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won it from 2003-17. Chase Elliott has won it every year since.

Noah Gragson was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Xfinity Series. Hailie Deegan was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

Kevin Harvick to make decision on future by Daytona in February

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick says he’ll know by Daytona in February his plans beyond 2023.

Harvick’s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing ends after the upcoming season. 

Harvick said Thursday before the NASCAR Awards that “it could go either way at this particular point” on what he’ll do, but he affirmed that “going into Daytona, I’ll know what I’m going to do.”

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 19. Harvick anticipates making an announcement by then.

“We’re at a point where everybody needs to know what’s going on,” Harvick said. “There’s too many tentacles to everything that happens. Whether it’s the race team, driver management company, every element needs to know. It’s not fair to anybody to have to start the season not knowing.”

Harvick turns 47 on Dec. 8. Next season will be his 23rd in Cup. His debut came a week after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick was selected by car owner Richard Childress to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

Harvick has gone to win the 2014 Cup championship and 60 races at Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s tied with Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time Cup wins list.

Harvick won two races last season. His victory last August at Michigan snapped a 65-race winless streak. He followed that by winning the next weekend at Richmond. 

Harvick has won at least two races in nine of the past 10 seasons. He has scored 41 of his 60 Cup wins since he turned 37 years old.

“Kevin, I think, is probably the No. 1 leader of the drivers, as he should be,” two-time Cup champion Joey Logano said Thursday. “He’s been around the longest. He’s very accomplished. He’s very smart. He’s been through the ups and downs. He’s lived it. There’s wisdom in experience. It’s great to hear his opinion on where we are as a sport.”

Harvick’s business interests include a management company that represents Cup drivers Ryan Preece, Harrison Burton and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., along with other athletes. Harvick also has worked as a broadcaster on NASCAR Xfinity races for Fox Sports, earning positive reviews. 

Harvick’s son Keelan, who is 10 years old, races and has competed in karting in Europe. 

“He’s got one more race in Italy … and then we’ll start all over again,” Harvick said of his son.

Harvick went overseas after the season finale at Phoenix to watch Keelan race.

“I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since he’s been making these trips,” Harvick said. “I think it’s important to have that culturing aspect of life to be comfortable to do things like that anywhere in the world.”

The NASCAR Awards program airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 3 on Peacock. To sign up for Peacock, go here.

BJ McLeod, Live Fast team move to Chevrolet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Driver/owner BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports will race in Chevrolets beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Live Fast has been a Ford team.

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Live Fast is owned by McLeod, Matt Tifft and Joe Falk. Jessica McLeod, BJ’s wife, is the team’s chief operating officer.

“Our team is excited to make this transition to Chevrolet,” BJ McLeod said in a statement released by the team. “Chevrolet Camaros have proven great success on the track, and Live Fast Motorsports is looking forward to becoming a part of this advance.”

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The team will use ECR engines.

McLeod had one top-10 finish in 29 starts in the Cup Series last season.