Kevin Harvick’s crew chief explains details of Texas penalty in tweetstorm

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During a series of early morning posts Friday on Twitter, Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick, revealed several details about his team’s penalty at Texas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR effectively stripped Harvick’s victory Wednesday and knocked the team from the Championship 4 after finding an illegally mounted spoiler on the No. 4 Ford. According to Childers, the team gained 4 counts of downforce by offsetting the part to the right, or 0.04 percent of the car’s total downforce.

Childers also posted that the team made the decision to move the spoiler after watching many teams shift their decklids and spoilers to the right in the previous 1.5-mile race at Kansas Speedway two weeks earlier. Childers said it was too late for the team to move the decklid for the Texas race.

Suspended from the next two races, Childers said he is working from the shop this weekend rather than travel to Phoenix. Though he wouldn’t have been allowed in the garage, Childers would have been permitted to be in the grandstands or the suites. He hinted in a previous tweet that he might attend the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Childers also posted that there are no hard feelings with NASCAR about the penalty.

Ryan: NASCAR can’t keep taking the bad with the good

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Welcome to NASCAR’s Year of Nothing Good.

It’s an unfortunate recurring narrative this season, and it’s the bad spot that NASCAR suddenly finds itself in – yet again – four days before setting the field for its championship finale.

The title storyline just got a lot more intriguing, but the drama comes with the concomitant rotting stench of rulebreaking that will leave the 2018 stretch run tainted for long after the champion is crowned Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kevin Harvick, the odds-on favorite to win the title, suddenly is facing potential elimination after a penalty announced Wednesday, nearly three days after his dominant victory at Texas Motor Speedway.

That throws the race for the three spots wide open, which is good.

But it’s also bad because it takes the focus off the competition, personalities and conflict (hey, remember that new feud we briefly were talking about?) and shifts it to a host of annoyingly persistent questions that lack any easy answers.

How many teams are cheating? (Given that officials went 3 for 3 in dinging the cars of Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones for three separate problems, the guess here is that the number of penalties that could have been issued would have been proportional to the number of NASCAR haulers shipping cars to the R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina.)

Why can’t NASCAR discover these infractions at the track?

Why can’t the inspection process be confined only to the garage (as many other major-league racing series somehow have managed … though in this case, the infraction apparently could be caught only at the R&D Center)? As Harvick’s car owner, Tony Stewart, raised during postrace Sunday, why can’t inspection be accomplished more efficiently and swiftly?

Why are major penalties still being announced midweek despite NASCAR’s promise to get out of the business of Wednesday news alerts? (There have been 10 penalties with points deductions and suspensions this season, so it’s trending in the wrong direction.)

Why is the rulebook so voluminous that it seems every waking minute is devoted to legislating some arcane bit of business related to its thousands of codicils, whether it’s an uncontrolled tire or an uneven planar mating surface? Or pinion shims, window braces and flat splitters?

See the problem with the “Hey, this penalty will reinvigorate the championship run!” angle?

Aside from the tightening of the points standings, there is nothing good about it.

And even if Harvick completes a remarkable comeback by winning at Phoenix and Miami (without ace crew chief Rodney Childers), his second championship will be scarred even with a feel-good ending.

And that has been a depressingly familiar refrain about NASCAR this season, which actually has featured several decent and memorable races (the finishes to the Daytona 500, Chicagoland Speedway among the most notable).

Even when Something Good seems to happen, it always is quickly usurped by Nothing Good.

–Your presumptive most popular driver breaks through for his first victory in Cup?

All the oxygen from that feel-good story of Chase Elliott’s inaugural triumph was sucked away by a traffic stop a few hours after the checkered flag that became the lead story in TMZ Sports the next morning and was the biggest of several black eyes for NASCAR this year.

–The Round of 16 field is set with a barnburner of a finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (whose regular-season finale debut was worth the wait after a frustrating weekend of nonstop rain)?

Let’s interrupt that playoff momentum with a Tuesday announcement that the series’ reigning championship race team will be closing its doors when the playoffs end.

–A fresh face breaks through in the Xfinity Series and brightens victory lane with a rarely seen effervescence?

So about that drug test that the winner recently took

Even NASCAR’s attempts to manufacture Something Good have fallen flat.

The announcement of the 2019 rules package was well intentioned, but it came on a Tuesday afternoon (and had been scheduled weeks earlier) that dampened the afterglow of the thrilling finish to the Roval, which has been among the highlights of a playoffs that has lacked for memorable moments.

Another was Martinsville Speedway, where Joey Logano’s last-lap bump of Martin Truex Jr. from the lead at least generated a week of productive discussion about what was happening on the track and the reasons that fans love watching and talking about it.

It was a pleasant departure from the pervasively impenetrable chatter about appeals hearings, a bizarrely lackluster race at Talladega Superspeedway and several controversial calls on cautions and penalties (recall when Jimmie Johnson inexplicably was sent to the rear by mistake Sunday).

The sparse grandstands Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway and Wednesday’s exhaustive social media outrage about the penalties are ominous reminders that these aren’t the conversations that foster interest in NASCAR.

Eventually, there’s a tipping point in which they overwhelm the focus on the competition

What happens then?

Nothing good.

NASCAR penalizes Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones for Texas infractions

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NASCAR issued penalties Wednesday against the No. 20 of Erik Jones and the No. 12 of Ryan Blaney for L1 infractions following their top-five finishes at Texas Motor Speedway.

Blaney’s car, which placed second, violated Section 20.4.17.6.b in the rulebook, which states all filler panels must remain permanently attached for the entire event.

Blaney was docked 20 driver and owner points. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins was fined $50,000 and car chief Kirk Almquist was suspended for two points races.

Blaney remains ninth in the standings.

There was not an immediate response from Team Penske on if it would appeal the penalty.

Jones’ No. 20, which placed fourth, violated Sections 20.4.h and 20.4.17.8.b in the rulebook, which states that air cannot pass from one area of the vehicle interior to another and the vehicle package tray must remain flat and straight, front to back, with one break.

Crew chief Chris Gayle was fined $50,000 and car chief Jason Overstreet was suspended for two points races.

The team also was docked 20 driver and owner points. Jones left Texas 13th in the standings. He is now tied with Austin Dillon for 15th.

Joe Gibbs Racing will not appeal the penalty.

Those penalties are in addition to the L1 penalty against Kevin Harvick’s team.

In the Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR issued a penalty against NextGen Motorsports for a ballast falling off Brennan Poole‘s No. 35 truck in practice at Texas.

Crew chief Ryan Bell, truck chief Jerry Kennedy and mechanic Patrick Magee have been suspended for the next three points races, which would include the 2019 opener at Daytona.

The team is not entered in this weekend’s race in Phoenix.

NASCAR also issued indefinite suspensions to Vincent Shull and Doug Campbell for violating the its substance abuse policy.

 

Racing at Texas Motor Speedway leaves some frustrated

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Chase Elliott questioned the “entertainment factor” of Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, but a NASCAR official said that the 2019 rules package, which features less horsepower, could enhance the action there next year.

Drivers talked after this weekend’s races about the challenges of passing at the high-speed 1.5-mile track.

Martin Truex Jr., who started at the rear of the Cup race after an engine change and finished ninth, said passing was “unbelievably impossible.”

Elliott was more blunt.

“I don’t know what genius decided to pave this place or take the banking out of (Turns) 1 and 2,” he said after finishing sixth. “Not a good move for the entertainment factor, in my opinion.”

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said next year’s rules package should work well at the track. Teams will have 550 horsepower at Texas next year, along with aero ducts, a larger spoiler, new splitter and radiator pan to help with aerodynamics.

I don’t want to take away from anything Kevin Harvick did,” O’Donnell told the media after Sunday’s race. “Having said that, I think we would all agree on the race entertainment quality between Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there’s a difference. I think we also know that we’ve got a new rules package in place next year that again some of you have not too been too positive about but there’s a reason we’ve got to that, and I think this would be one of the reasons.

Denny Hamlin suggested on Twitter that that is another key ingredient to improving the racing.

Winner Kevin Harvick, who led 177 of 335 laps but had to pass Ryan Blaney late to win, was diplomatic about the challenges of Texas.

“Look, repaves are difficult,” he said. “I think they put in as much effort here as anywhere that we’ve gone. Two years in a row we’ve won a race on the high side. It’s just one of those things where you just have to give it time.

“It’s a really fast racetrack that they came and changed the tires from the first race (this year), so we kind of fixed that problem from the tires blowing out and everything that we had happen in the spring race.”

Texas Motor Speedway was repaved and the banking in Turns 1 and 2 dropped four degrees to 20 degrees. The changes were made before the track’s 2017 races and were a result of issues drying the track that led to a 76-day postponement of the IndyCar race in 2016 and the delay of the 2016 Cup playoff race.

Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, responded on Twitter to fan complaints about the racing Sunday and asked fans for patience.

NASCAR putting procedures in place to avoid ‘unacceptable’ mistake

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NASCAR will put additional procedures in place this weekend to avoid repeating the mistake series officials made in making Jimmie Johnson start at the rear of Sunday’s race, Steve O’Donnell told “The Morning Drive” on Monday.

NASCAR sent Johnson to the rear before the start of the race because it incorrectly noted that Johnson’s car failed inspection three times Sunday. Johnson’s car passed on its third attempt and should have been allowed to start in his original spot.

O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, called the mistake “unacceptable.” Series officials met with Hendrick Motorsports personnel, which included crew chief Chad Knaus and Jeff Gordon, after the race and apologized.

“We’ll certainly put procedures in place prior to Phoenix to ensure that just can’t happen going forward,” O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It was one of those things, again, a human error that we’ve really got to look at and look at some additional procedures we can have in place prior to Phoenix. We’ll have those done today, and we’ll be communicating those first and foremast to the team that was affected and then to the industry as well.”

Among the changes O’Donnell said would be in “the number of people that confirm a call prior to the race. Once the race started, we’re in trouble. It’s plain and simple.”