Kevin Harvick Stripped of Championship Race Berth After Failing Inspection

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2018

Kevin Harvick takes a photo with a young fan after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Larry Papke/Associated Press

Kevin Harvick was docked 40 points and loses his automatic spot in the Championship 4 after he was found to have used an illegally modified spoiler in his latest victory, according to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press (via Yahoo Sports).

The No. 4 car had taken first place at Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but a post-race inspection discovered the illegal equipment and his team was issued an L-1 penalty.

Crew chief Rodney Childers and car chief Robert Smith were also suspended for the final two races of the season, while Childers was fined $75,000.

"We work tirelessly across every inch of our race cars to create speed, and unfortunately, NASCAR determined we ventured into an area not accommodated by its rule book," Stewart-Haas Racing vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said. "We will not appeal the penalty. Instead, we will direct our immediate focus to this weekend's event in Phoenix and control our destiny on the racetrack."

The penalty has massive implications for the entire remaining field in the Monster Energy Cup playoffs with just one race remaining before the final event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

With last week's win, Harvick had presumably clinched one of four spots in the finals along with Joey Logano, who won the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway. However, the penalty now means the veteran must either win again to secure a spot in the finals or rely upon his point total, which is less secure now with the 40-point punishment.

Harvick is now just three points ahead of the current cutline, per NASCAR.com, with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. more than 20 points ahead of him. If one of the other four drivers wins next Sunday in the Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway, he could be on the outside looking in.

This would be a major surprise considering the 42-year-old's dominance in 2018. In 34 starts, Harvick leads all drivers with eight wins as well as 21 top-five finishes, 18 stage wins and 1,859 total laps led.

He and his team will now have to refocus their energy toward getting back in contention for a title.