Kevin Harvick's championship berth spoiled by NASCAR inspectors

Kevin Harvick’s win Sunday at Texas no longer counts for automatic qualification into the championship raceMore

NASCAR found Harvick had an illegal race-winning vehicle - his second of the season - after his victory at Texas Motor Speedway earned him an automatic berth in the November 18 title race in Florida.

The whopping penalty negated the automatic berth Harvick earned into NASCAR's version of a final four.

NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller revealed additional details on the L1-level penalty issued Wednesday to the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team, saying the spoiler on Kevin Harvick's auto was "absolutely, 100 percent, no question" not in compliance with the NASCAR Rule Book.

Tony Gibson will fill-in as crew chief on the No. 4 team with Nick DeFazio as substitute auto chief.

Greg Zipadellil, SHR's vice president of communications, said the team will not appeal the penalty.

The team has the right to appeal this penalty, but indicated that they will forgo that option. "Instead, we will direct our immediate focus to this weekend's event in Phoenix and control our destiny on the race track".

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This is huge as his victory at Texas can not be used to move him directly into the Homestead Championship race and it can not be used in any way as far as a tie breaker goes if he ties another driver in points after the race at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.

The 2014 Cup Series champion is a nine-time victor at Phoenix, including earlier this year. Now, SHR could wind up locked out of the finale outright if Harvick doesn't advance past Phoenix. However, if you know anything about Harvick, you would know that this won't stop him from doing what he needs to do to win. NASCAR doesn't penalize teams for a prequalifying or prerace inspection failure and penalizes the team practice time the following week for two inspection failures. NASCAR considered making it an L2 penalty (75 points) but settled on the high end of an L1 penalty (40 points).

The last big scandal in NASCAR was in 2013, when Michael Waltrip Racing manipulated the finish of a race at Richmond to try to get Martin Truex Jr. into the playoffs.

"It is not our desire to issue any penalties but will do so when necessary to ensure each race and championship is contested on a level playing field", Miller said.

NASCAR later allowed Miller to answer questions about Harvick's penalty because of the magnitude of the situation. Ryan Blaney's team was punished and so was the team for Erik Jones. Jones crew chief Chris Gayle was fined $50,000 and auto chief Jason Overstreet was suspended the next two races. Miller said the sanctioning body will look during the offseason at tougher penalties if a team that can't even pass the first round of inspection. Nick DeFazio will serve as interim auto chief.

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