Harvick No Longer Locked Into Championship 4 After Texas Post-Race Penalty

As the victor Sunday, Harvick's auto was one of the vehicles taken back to NASCAR R&D Center for further inspection.

"We have small windows and tight windows to get the inspections done, and we might spend in the neighborhood of five minutes with each of the 40 cars for the three-hour window that we have for inspection", Miller said. "The spoiler is a piece that is bought by the teams from a single-source supplier".

An NASCAR inspector noticed something looked amiss on the No. 4 during the post-race inspection at the track, a finding that led to officials breaking down the spoiler completely once back at the R&D Center, where the infraction was then discovered.

"We realize that we kind of probably need to ramp up the severity of what goes on at the race track, and we're hoping that we can change the culture to where we don't have to play this cat-and-mouse game with the teams all the time because we have to make it a little bit more effect for them than just saying, 'Take that [piece] off, '" Miller said. With the penalty, Harvick is still in the playoffs on merit, but just three points ahead of teammate Kurt Busch for the final spot.

Harvick was docked 40 points for the violation, and his win at Texas no longer automatically advances him to the Round of 8. This prompted NASCAR to levy penalties which include a 40-point deduction and suspension for crew chief Rodney Childers for the remainder of the season, in addition to the aforementioned loss of guaranteed spot in the Championship 4.

Stewart-Haas accepted the penalty and will not appeal, according to vice president of Greg Zipadelli. NASCAR also hit Childers with a $75,000 fine.

"As everybody knows, we issued a penalty for the 4 auto today, and the penalty notice, which I'm sure you all got, it was spelled out that the splitter or the spoiler did not meet the CAD file", he said.

Tony Gibson will serve as the interim crew chief on the No. 4 over the next two weekends.

"We work tirelessly across every inch of our race cars to create speed, " Zipadelli said. "Instead, we will direct our immediate focus to this weekend's event in Phoenix and control our destiny on the race track".

The impact of the penalty stretches behind Stewart-Haas Racing as well.

NASCAR announced the mistake during the race and said Monday it has updated its procedures to prevent a similar mistake moving forward.

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

As a result, Harvick's victory does not count toward automatic advancement into the Championship Race at Homestead.

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. "We will now return our focus to Phoenix, and the battle for a championship". Vehicle chief Robert Smith has also been suspended from the next two Cup Series races.

Also Wednesday, NASCAR penalized the teams of Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones, who already have been eliminated from the playoffs.

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