Was it a win earned by superior performance or a victory gained by engineering knowhow accompanied with a willingness to push the bounds beyond what is permitted in the NASCAR rulebook?
That has become the popular question in the wake of Kevin Harvick’s dominating win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, when following the triumph photos surfaced online that appeared to show the rear window on Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing car had bowed in the upper right corner. And it wasn’t just viewers at home who took notice. Chase Elliott had an in-race conversation with crew chief Alan Gustafson about the nonconforming rear window he saw on Harvick’s car.
Rodney Childers, Harvick’s crew chief, denied any intentional wrongdoing during an interview Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Childers, who guided Harvick to the 2014 Cup Series championship, said a rear window brace broke and that is what caused the irregular shape.
“We’re going to learn from this,” Childers said. “It’s not something that we wanted to happen. You definitely don’t want the back of the roof sharp. You want the back of the roof round and you want that to be a smooth transition. I think that everybody thinks that it helps. I would suggest that it probably didn’t help.
“The wind tunnels don’t blow fast enough to even to get to that speed to know whether it was good or bad. It’s something that we’ve got to address.”
Despite Childers assertion, other theories abound on why Harvick’s windshield may have looked as it did. Some contend that the trackbar adjustment a driver has access to and can use during a race may have had a mechanism built into it to change the slant of the rear window. Others have speculated the window was designed to buckle while the car was at speed.
Any change in how the rear windshield lays could create additional downforce. This benefit is particularly important on an aerodynamic-sensitive, high-speed track like Las Vegas where teams devise setups in an attempt to carry as much speed through the corners as possible.
NASCAR cleared the No. 4 car during pre- and post-race technical inspection. As it does with all race-winning vehicles, NASCAR confiscated Harvick’s car and took it back to its Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., for a more thorough inspection. The results of the teardown will likely be announced Wednesday afternoon.
Harvick led 214 of a possible 267 laps on Sunday at Las Vegas. The win was his second in a row following a similar dominating run the week before at Atlanta Motor Speedway — that car passed technical inspection.
Childers told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio he doesn’t anticipate NASCAR issuing any penalties.
“I wouldn’t think so,” Childers said. “I think the biggest thing is getting it fixed and making sure that it doesn’t happen again. I think all the guys there they understand aerodynamics and they understand what goes on. We all communicate and we try to do the right things. I think also my reputation over there is pretty good.
“Like I said, it’s not something to be proud of. We’re proud of winning races and having fast cars. Whether a brace failed or not, we were going to win the other day. That’s really the whole story.”