By Robert Schloemer, NASCAR Fan Contributer – Follow on Twitter @SchloemerZ
*Editor’s note: The Schloemer Zone is a place for NASCAR fans to hear the ranting and raving of a true NASCAR fan — Robert Schloemer. Schloemer is not a trained journalist, and has no skin in the game financially, he is just a huge NASCAR fan and has agreed to bring his thoughts and opinions in a periodic column on The Final Lap.
Kevin Harvick absolutely dominated the Texas race. There is no denying that. Harvick has been the class of the field this season winning eight races and should have probably won more (Kansas, Talladega, Dover just off the top of my head, but was cursed with pit road issues and bad luck). Winning both stages and the checkered flag, Harvick looked to be returning to his dominating ways with no pit road issues in the AAA Texas 500.
Wednesday, NASCAR social media roared to life with news that the No. 4 car failed inspection with a spoiler issue. The team was hit with an L1 penalty which result in both crew chief and car chief being banned from the track for two races, a $75,000 dollar fine and a loss of the maximum 40 points for an L1 penalty.
This was big, and it shook up the playoff picture like I have never seen before. However, NASCAR released little to no information as to what the infraction consisted of other than the fact that it pertained to the rear spoiler.
The internet went wild without information. What was wrong with the spoiler? How was it missed during prerace inspection? How was a part supplied by NASCAR failing the post-race inspection? And of course, my personal favorite, NASCAR is penalizing Harvick on purpose to give Toyota the upper-hand.
I even found pictures of the spoiler on the car from Sunday’s race and compared it to other cars from this season and found nothing visible that caused it to fail. This penalty was huge. Why was it so huge? NASCAR fans wanted to know!
Fast forward to about 7:30 pm and NASCAR is finally ready to dish out the details of what they found.
The findings were explosive. NASCAR found that the rear spoiler on the car wasn’t even the spoiler they had provided to the No. 4 team. Instead, Stewart-Haas Racing had manufactured their own piece and installed it in place of the NASCAR provided spoiler.
If you don’t know, there are two parts that NASCAR provides to each and every car for each race. The rear spoiler is one of those and each and every one is exactly the same and it is not to be tampered with. You don’t touch it.
Think back to 2016, Chase Elliott had a piece of tape on his spoiler and was hit with a L1 penalty. The SHR spoiler was moved .3 inches to the right. It may seem like nothing, but at 200 mph this gives an extremely large aerodynamic push to the car, especially affecting handling in a corner.
Is Harvick’s season starting to make sense now?
So then, people asked, how was this not caught? Well here is the answer. Seeing as NASCAR provides the part and they know every spoiler is exactly the same, the inspection station doesn’t even look at the spoiler. The spoiler is not an inspected part. Evidently NASCAR never thought a team would have the audacity to make their own and slip it on while no one is looking.
This is enraging.
This goes well beyond going into the gray area with a fender measurement or flirting with a ride height measurement. This is bold face, we are smarter than NASCAR, example of cheating. The ONLY way this was caught was that an official noticed that Harvick’s spoiler just didn’t look right. That’s how they were caught.
So, this leads to a bigger question: How long has this been going on?
The talk of the season has been the sheer dominance of the SHR team as a whole, and especially Kevin Harvick.
How many times did they use their own spoiler? How many races did Kevin Harvick absolutely blow the field away? This rule infraction raises a serious question on the No. 4 team’s entire season.
I’m not an official and I’ve never worked for NASCAR, but to me this once seemingly huge penalty dealt to the No. 4 team, seems more like a slap on the wrist now that details have come to light.
SHR knew exactly what they were doing, and they prepared for when they got caught. They brought their Phoenix cars to Texas as they are already prepared. Their Homestead car is also already done, its ready to be shipped out.
A loss of a crew chief and a car chief are not that big of a deal. In my opinion, the No. 4 car should be ejected from the playoffs. It’s that simple. He wasn’t dominant this season, he was cheating his way to countless victories.
NASCAR really screwed the pooch on this one, and if Harvick wins the title this year, there needs to be a giant asterisk next to his name.
Photo: @DiecastFans on Twitter