Kevin Harvick’s race-winning auto fails inspection; had illegal spoiler during inspection

Johnson's struggle a 'reality check' for Harvick

Johnson was sent to the back of the field because NASCAR believed his auto failed inspection three times, but he had failed only twice.

But this apparent brazen attempt to circumvent the rules could be the tipping point for NASCAR as it tries to emphasize that teams must bring legal cars to the race track. NASCAR has for several years refused to give specifics about infractions - keeping secret ideas on how to game the system - but reversed course on the Harvick penalty because of mounting criticism about the severity of his punishment. He also is without crew chief Rodney Childers and vehicle chief Robert Smith for the rest of the season as both are suspended for two races.

Additionally, Miller said NASCAR would review its deterrence model in the offseason and consider stiffer penalties for certain infractions. There is a lot on the line this weekend at ISM Raceway with three Championship 4 spots still open and three drivers only separated by 17 points for the fourth and final spot.

"We were right on the verge of thinking that this might fall into the L2 category", Miller said.

Harvick was penalized on Wednesday for a post-race inspection failure, throwing all of that out the window.

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"We work tirelessly across every inch of our racecars to create speed and, unfortunately, NASCAR determined we ventured into an area not accommodated by its rule book", SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said Wednesday in a statement. Harvick's win at Texas no longer automatically qualifies the team for the Championship 4 in Miami.

The 2014 Cup Series champion is a nine-time victor at Phoenix, including earlier this year. Miller said "there was something that one of the inspectors saw that kind of made them a little bit suspicious, and that's why we took it off when the auto got back to the R&D Center".

Kevin Harvick will enter the weekend with the cloud over his head from all of the discussion about his vehicle failing post-race inspection following the AAA Texas 500. Although this isn't the proper time for Martin Truex Jr. or Aric Almirola to get Logano back, if either one has his eligibility ended or becomes locked into the Championship 4, don't be surprised when cameras cut to Logano hitting the wall after one of those drivers, or even a new Logano hater, hits him to end his race.

Harvick is not the only driver to get an L1 penalty.

"It is not our desire to issue any penalties but will do so when necessary to ensure each race and championship is contested on a level playing field", Miller said. Nick DeFazio will be the interim auto chief. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins is fined $50,000, and auto chief Kirk Almquist is suspended for the next two races. Jones crew chief Chris Gayle was fined $50,000 and vehicle chief Jason Overstreet was suspended the next two races.

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