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

Dave Burns reports on how Kevin Harvick's penalty at Texas will affect the Stewart-Haas Racing team, and the NASCAR America crew explores what Harvick's penalty shows about NASCAR rules.

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.”