Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team thought they had clinched their spot in the Championship 4 after taking the checkered flag at Texas this past weekend. However, upon further inspection, NASCAR ruled the win illegitimate and stripped Harvick of the win and the automatic playoff advancement that comes with it.
After Harvick made the trip to Victory Lane, his car was sent to the research and development center where illegal modifications to the rear spoiler were found. 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 Racing announced early Wednesday that the team would not appeal the penalty. That leaves Harvick to fight for his playoff life at Phoenix this weekend with backup crew chief Tony Gibson. With the penalty, Harvick is still in the playoffs on merit, but just three points ahead of teammate Kurt Busch for the final spot.
Joey Logano is currently the only driver locked into Homestead with “The Big Three” of Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. currently in on merit. The penalty opens a realistic chance for Kurt Busch or Chase Elliott to move into the playoffs on merit if Logano, or a non-playoff driver wins this weekend, while Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer would likely need a checkered flag to advance.
Fortunately for the No. 4 team, they know how to win at Phoenix. Harvick has won nine times there in the Cup Series over the course of his career including this season’s March race.
As far as other penalties go, Texas runner-up finisher Ryan Blaney and fourth-place finisher Erik Jones were each docked 20 points for postrace violations in addition to seeing their crew chiefs suspended for the final two contests. Both drivers were already eliminated from the playoffs in earlier rounds.
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