Roger Diez: Harvick: NASCAR giveth, NASCAR taketh away | NevadaAppeal.com

Roger Diez: Harvick: NASCAR giveth, NASCAR taketh away

Roger Diez

Kevin Harvick left Las Vegas last Sunday with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup points lead, two wins qualifying him for the Playoffs, and lots of playoff points accumulated. Today he’s third behind Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney after a loss of 20 driver and owner points, his crew chief is $50,000 lighter in the wallet, and his car chief is serving a two-race suspension. Harvick was also stripped of the seven playoff points he received for winning all three stages of the race. NASCAR leveled an L-1 penalty to the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team after fans on social media pointed out something funny going on with the car’s rear window. It seems as though a supporting brace didn’t hold the window glass rigid in all directions, and a second penalty for unapproved rocker panel material was also assessed. Now I’m not enough of an expert aerodynamicist to assess the competitive advantage of those two items, but rules are rules.

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There’s controversy over the fact fans first brought the situation to NASCAR’s attention. Some folks don’t think NASCAR should act on such information. Personally, I liken it to calling 9-1-1 when you see a drunk driver on the road, but that’s just me. In any case, it’s highly likely NASCAR would’ve found the violations at the post-race teardown in their tech center. But I can see the objections to NASCAR being obliged to hunt down every fan complaint about car legality. And it’s not like the Cup teams aren’t even more diligent in policing each other, as Kyle Busch radioed to his crew chief to “write down rear window” during the race as he was following Harvick.

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Harvick will have a chance to redeem himself Sunday at Phoenix, where he’s the all-time track master at the flat one-mile oval with eight victories there. And you can bet the No. 4 Ford will get some extra scrutiny as it passes through tech inspection. The only other active drivers to win recently in Phoenix are Ryan Newman who won last spring, and Logano, last fall’s winner. Denny Hamlin won in 2012 and the last of Jimmie Johnson’s four Phoenix victories was back in 2009.

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In local racing news, Fernley Ninety-Five A Speedway is back in action with local racing this year. Next Saturday is their first event, a test-and-tune for prospective racers, plus a car show and swap meet. It all starts at 8 a.m. and is free for spectators. If you want to get involved in racing, they need volunteers to help run the races. Call track manager Matt Sherman at 775-530-8105 for further information on volunteer opportunities.

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I’m hoping the Fernley track gets some good car counts this season. In an ongoing trend, NASCAR is having difficulties filling the field for their Cup races. After dropping the maximum field size from 43 to 40 two years ago, this year’s Daytona 500 drew only 40 entries. In the not too distant past, I can remember 50 or more teams trying to make the race. The field at Atlanta was 36 cars, there were 37 at Las Vegas, and the Phoenix entry list shows 37 as well. TV ratings and race attendance are both down, and Monster Energy has requested an extension on its decision to renew its series sponsorship. I don’t think the sport is in crisis just yet, but there are concerns.

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While NASCAR car counts are dwindling, the Verizon IndyCar series is seeing an uptick in entries. Sunday’s season opener for the series at St. Petersburg will have 24 cars taking the green flag, up from 21 cars last season. According to Jaye Frye, IndyCar’s president of competition and operations, four new teams and owners are joining the series this year, fielding three full-time cars and two additional cars that will run from four to eight races. Four drivers will make their first IndyCar start at St. Pete, and the field will include 13 drivers who have won a race in the series.

Speaking of IndyCar, the second half of the Danica Double will see her in an Ed Carpenter Racing car for the 2018 Indy 500, her last professional race.