Melillo’s Mind: Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube
By Justin Melillo
Mar. 8, 2018
Kevin Harvick won, but then he didn’t as of Wednesday afternoon.
The win still counts, and stands as his 100th career NASCAR National Series victory. However, Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford were penalized all of the benefits of the win from this previous Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after infractions were found in the NASCAR R&D Center on Wednesday.
In the race, Harvick was the man. He won all three stages, accumulated the max number of points attainable, and had little to no competition throughout the event.
“I have to thank everyone from Stewart-Haas Racing, Gene and Tony, it is fun to have them here when we win,” Harvick said. “Everybody who helps put this thing on the race track, we couldn’t do it without them.”
After the conclusion of the race, it was discovered on many social media networks that the rear window on Harvick’s Freaky Fast machine was bowed, and armchair rules analysts assumed that it was intentional to give the car an advantage.
On Wednesday, NASCAR gave Harvick and team a P1 level penalty for two infractions found at the R&D center, one of which was “a brace that supports the rear window failed and did not meet specifications for keeping the rear window glass rigid in all directions, at all times,” as per the release from NASCAR. The other infraction was due to a part not being made of the proper material.
The result from the penalty was a loss of the seven playoff points earned during the race, plus 20 regular points being lost. Crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000, and car chief Robert Smith was suspended for two races.
Harvick, as well as the entire Ford camp, has been the class of the field since leaving Daytona. Atlanta’s car was deemed legal, but it was the Vegas car that was popped with the penalty.
I don’t see this hindering the movement set by the Ford teams this early in 2018, but I also don’t see Harvick’s dominance continuing into the newly named ISM Raceway, formerly known as Phoenix.
Chevrolet and their new Camaro were, once again, absent from competing for the victory. Kyle Larson was the highest finishing Chevy in third place, but was the only Chevy inside the top 10.
Chase Elliott was looking to be the class of the Chevy camp, but a mid race incident with Kurt Busch relegated the NAPA No. 9 to a 34th-place result.
On the Toyota side of the pond, Kyle Busch finished second, Martin Truex Jr. came home fourth, and Erik Jones ended up in eighth. Ford has been the dominant manufacturer thus far, but Toyota is not far behind, and seems to have a better hold on the 2018 season than the Chevrolet camp does.
Heading to ISM Raceway, being that it’s such a different animal than 1.5 milers tend to be, I think we see more competition from all manufacturers, and the likes of Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski will be battling for the victory.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.