While the focus has been on NASCAR’s landmark decision to disqualify cars, including the winner, for failing postrace inspection, Kevin Harvick said it is what NASCAR will do all race weekend that is as important.
Harvick also discussed if he’ll do anything different this year with burnouts and how aggressive he believes his team should be with these new rules.
Harvick told NBC Sports on Tuesday morning that he liked what NASCAR will do all weekend in the garage.
“As you look at the whole process, it’s really not about postrace in my opinion,” he said. “I think it really starts in prerace and making sure that the officials and the teams are on the same page as to how things are interpreted.”
NASCAR announced Monday that during a three-day race weekend, a car that fails prerace inspection twice will start at the rear of the field, have a crew member ejected and lose 15 minutes of practice at the next event.
Should a car fail inspection before the race three times, the team also will have to serve a pass-through penalty at the start of the race and lose an additional 15 minutes of practice the next weekend.
Should a car fail inspection four times before the race, it will be classified an L1 penalty. Minimum penalty options would be a reduction of 10-40 owner and driver points, and/or suspension of a crew chief or team member for one to three races and/or a fine between $25,000 – $75,000.
NASCAR also stated Monday that it plans to have officials dedicated to each national series garage. NASCAR plans to have 12 officials dedicated to the Cup garage, 10 dedicated to the Xfinity garage and eight dedicated to the Truck garage. Other officials will move from one series garage to another to support those dedicated officials.
Harvick said such a change will help NASCAR try to keep up with teams.
“What happens in today’s world in every practice, somebody has got a group of pictures that come from every car throughout practice,” he said. “Everybody has got people back in the shop watching videos and analyzing them and listening to radios. So as soon as the teams find a weakness that NASCAR is doing, they exploit it pretty quickly. The teams are very good at analyzing things and sometimes much quicker than NASCAR is at figuring things out because there are just so many more of us.
“I like the fact that there are specific officials for each garage because each garage is different. I think a lot of times there were just so much going on for the guys and the gals in the garage inspecting the cars, that they just got worn out. There were so many things that were going on. In order to keep it under control, you have to keep it under control from the first week. You have to be able to police the things you did the first week on the 25th week and not have those trends keep growing.”
Another key area is how will NASCAR officiate burnouts by the winner? Exuberant burnouts have led to tires blowing and damaging the car. If that happens, will that prevent a car from passing inspection after the race and lead to its disqualification? It’s a tricky issue for NASCAR.
“We’re in show business,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “Fans like burnouts. It’s a hard decision to make, and I don’t think we’ve actually landed on whether or not we’re going to say they can’t do that. But let’s just say that, at the very least, if there are habitual offenders of that, that’s not going to be OK.”
Harvick, who won eight races in 2018, is among those who have blown tires in past victory celebrations but he toned it down last year.
“We chose as a group to not have tires blow out,” Harvick told NBC Sports. “There were a couple of races where we didn’t do burnouts at all. Really that was out of respect to NASCAR asking just to help deliver a better message by not having everything blown out of the back of the car so they could inspect it.”
Even though he was more careful on burnouts, Harvick admits that a team can’t always be that way. After his team was penalized at Texas in the playoffs, Harvick said on his SiriusXM NASCAR show that “if you’re going to be one of the good teams, you’re going to have to push the limits. You’re going to have to be on the verge of getting trouble.”
Has his philosophy changed after NASCAR’s decision to disqualify cars that fail postrace inspection?
“You have to push to right up to where it is and sometimes it’s going to be questionable and sometimes it’s going to be too far and sometimes it’s going to result in positives,” Harvick said. “You have to be aggressive but you also have to be smart.
“I think there are a lot of areas that you can still work in, but right now, from a car standpoint, we’re just guessing on what we need because we don’t really know what we’re going to be battling as far as what happens when they drop the green flag at Atlanta (with the new rules package). We have no idea what’s going to happen, how we’re going to race or whether we’re fast or slow. There’s a lot of things to work on and obviously the inspection policy is going to be different.”