AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) Kevin Harvick got right to the point when a NASCAR media official tried to open a news conference with a comment about his record success at ISM Raceway.
”Nobody wants to talk about that,” Harvick said.
What everyone wanted to talk about Friday were penalties handed down against Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team for violations discovered after his victory Sunday in Las Vegas. The controversy was fueled by photos of his buckled rear windshield on social media.
”You look at golf and the fan officiating and the chaos that it caused,” Harvick said. ”That didn’t work in golf. It won’t work here.”
NASCAR said inspectors at its Research and Development Center in North Carolina found the Ford violated a rule requiring rear window support braces holding the glass rigid and another requiring the right rocker panel extension to be aluminum.
”The roof caved in, pulled the back and top of the window down, and that is really the root of the social media outrage that came after the race,” Harvick said. ”The car passed all the optical scanning station inspections and everything after the race. The car was built to tolerance. The scary part for me is the fact that we went far enough to find something on the car at the NASCAR R&D Center. They could find something wrong with every car if they took it apart for a whole day at the R&D Center.”
Harvick was penalized the seven playoff points he earned for winning the race and the first two stages. He was docked 20 regular points and the team lost 20 owners’ points. Crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000, and car chief Robert Smith suspended two races.
”If it is such a big deal, why is my crew chief still here?” Harvick said. ”I don’t understand that.”
Also the winner two weeks ago in Atlanta, he’s trying to become the first driver to win three straight since Joey Logano in 2015. The 42-year-old Californian has a record eight victories at ISM Raceway.
”I can’t wait to win another race and jump up and down in victory lane on the back of my car,” Harvick said.
The Las Vegas car had a steel panel extension instead of an aluminum one.
”The side skirt material is on us,” Harvick said. ”That rule was put into place Feb. 18 and it should have been aluminum. That is really kind of the meat of what gave them the ability to actually get the fine to where it was meaningful enough to appease everyone on social media.”
Logano was asked if he believed NASCAR was influenced by social media.
”I would think NASCAR is bigger than that,” Logano said. ”I think it just makes the story bigger when you see it all over social media.”
Stewart-Haas Racing has until Monday to appeal the penalties.
Tucson driver Alex Bowman is in his first season as the retired Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s replacement in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 Chevrolet.
The 24-year-old Bowman won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500. He started 10 races in the No. 88 car in 2016 when Earnhardt was sidelined by a concussion, winning the pole and finishing a career-best sixth at Phoenix in the fall race.
”It’s always fun to come home,” Bowman said. ”Don’t really get to spend a lot of time out here.”
Jamie McMurray is making his first Xfinity Series start since September 2013 at Richmond, driving the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. McMurray has eight Xfinity victories, winning at Phoenix in 2004. Fellow Cup drivers Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Ty Dillon also are racing Saturday in the second-tier series. Busch has a series-record 91 victories.
The International Speedway Corp.-owned track changed its name to ISM Raceway in a rights deal with Ingenuity Sun Media. Built in 1964, it was previously Phoenix International Raceway and Phoenix Raceway. The facility is undergoing a $178 million redevelopment expected to be completed in time for the November playoff race. The start-finish line will move from the front straightaway to near the second turn in front of a new 45,000-seat grandstand. The project includes 51 hospitality suites.
Jimmie Johnson is winless in 26 races, the longest drought of his career. The seven-time season champion has four victories at Phoenix. … JR Motorsports is going for its third straight Xfinity victory at the track. Justin Allgaier won last spring, and William Byron took the fall race.
VALLEY OF THE SUN
The high Friday was in the mid-80s in the Sierra Estrella foothills southwest of Phoenix. The forecast high for Saturday is 82 and it is expected to reach 80 again Sunday.
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