Flat Spot On: Q’s Remain in L’Affair Harvick/SHS

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 15 2018

Kevin Harvick drove to an easy win in Las Vegas two weeks ago. Was it too easy? (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

NASCAR in 280 characters (or less):

At the bottom of the Harvick/Stewart-Haas Racing affair is one important unresolved question. (Did the team devise a way to reduce support for the rear window to get more air to the rear spoiler and still pass inspection – before it broke?)

If an inspection trip to NASCAR R&D for winners was eliminated, would it be possible to answer this question? (With only inspecting cars at the track, the answer would more likely be yes – this broken part created an unfair advantage regardless of intent.)

Interestingly, the last guy to win three in a row before Harvick’s win in Phoenix was that wily rascal Harry Gant, who became Mr. September in 1991. (But questions still remain about radial tires and the rear suspension of his cars.)

How much did social media have to do with the severity of NASCAR’s penalty? (A lot. The attention paid to the rear window circumstance made it difficult, if not impossible, for NASCAR to administer a hand slap.)

It makes one long for the good ol’ days when teams kept an eye on each other in the garage to discover who was doing what. (But there’s no pulling the wool over the roving eye of social media now.)

Would it be better to just take the engines for a tear-down after races and make all other rules judgements at the track? (Yes. Then announce penalties on Tuesday mornings.)

Is the circumstance of l’affair Harvick/SHR another sign of NASCAR going to hell in a shopping cart with spinning wheels and a top-heavy load? (No, the sanctioning body is in a perfect storm of much bigger prevailing problems.)

The newer version of Harvick has been a lot smarter about how he handled this penalty problem, incisively hammering NASCAR on the social media issue. (The working media then took up the cudgel and the question of actually cheating got buried.)

It’s a reminder of the good ol’ days when every team owner, crew chief and driver had incentive to fudge on the rules in order to stay ahead. (The current rub is that NASCAR has devised an incentive called R&D to not innovate, i.e. fudge.)

Fans loved the idea of teams beating City Hall in the past by subterfuge and cleverness. (As long as it was their guy winning. The past week may have been a plebiscite on Harvick/SHR/Ford’s popularity.)

At Fontana, will the new Chevy Camaros get going? (So far, Chevy still has one more victory than Toyota this year.)

Kyle Larson is the defending winner at Fontana and by most views should be favored to win again. (Last year it was Furniture Row carrying the Toyota banner initially for the new Camry; will Chip Ganassi Racing play that role for the Camaro this year?)

Often overlooked in coverage of Chevy’s flagship Hendrick Motorsports is the departure of Doug Duchardt from his role of Executive VP and General Manager. (The team spread his former GM duties among three other executives.)

An accomplished technical manager, Duchardt’s new role at Chip Ganassi’s team is focused on human systems. (Prior to his success at Hendrick, Duchardt helped turn around Corvette Racing by hiring Formula 1 test drivers and switching to Michelin tires.)

Will NASCAR ever get over the successive departures of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.? (Their names are familiar, but – just in case – Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough.)

Would it be helpful if the sub-25-year-old crowd actually started winning on a regular basis? (Extremely. But the current four horsepower men – Truex, Jr., Johnson, Ky. Busch and Harvick are not exactly swiss cheese, although holes may be appearing in 7-time’s armor.)

Close out trivia. Who was the crew chief on the cars of Harry Gant when he won four straight races in September of 1991? (Crew Chief Andy Petree and Gant came within a broken brake line of winning all five races that month.)

Did Petree fudge on the rules with the rear suspensions of the cars entered by Leo Jackson? (Well, he likely found a way that wasn’t precisely against the rules to take advantage of Goodyear’s new radials… Ah, innovation.)

Jonathan Ingram is a longtime writer on the subject of motor racing. (His next book is titled Crash Course.)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 15 2018
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