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Rodney Childers: Rule Breaker or Rule Maker?

Kevin Harvick won the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday handily. He led all but 53 of the 267 laps that day, and swept stages one and two as well. Even when he fell slightly behind after a slow pit stop, Harvick eased through traffic as if it weren’t there, and marched away from the field once again.

It looks, though, like Harvick’s crew chief and/or engineers may have found something. If you take a look at images of the rear window of Harvick’s car on the track, at speed, it’s pretty clear that something’s not right. Take a look for yourself.

HarvickVegasWindow

Some might be asking how they got through both prerace and postrace inspection without getting caught. Well, take a look at that same spot when Harvick was celebrating post race. Keep in mind he was moving very slow at this point.

HarvickVegasWindow2

Something still doesn’t seem quite right, but it’s not nearly as pronounced as in the first image, which was when Harvick’s car was up to speed.

However, if you take a look at Harvick’s car last week at Atlanta, where he also won, there is no evidence of any alterations around the rear window.

HarvickAtlantaWindow

If this was on purpose, and it’s hard to deny that it was, it’s a new trick up the engineers’ sleeves over at the No. 4 team. The clever part, and the part that makes it effective, is that the dip in the rear window allows more air to press against the rear spoiler, which gives the car more downforce, and, therefore, more rear grip.

Now it’s hard to say whether NASCAR will penalize Harvick for this, since there’s nothing in the rulebook prohibiting active aerodynamics, but that area may be violating some other rule. The winning No. 4 car made it through pre race and post race inspection with no issues, but the real test will be the full teardown of the car early this week.

Chances are, if NASCAR does come down with a penalty, it will come down hard. If it elects not to, NASCAR will likely make a rule to prevent this kind of body alteration from happening in the future. So it’s really up to NASCAR to decide whether Rodney Childers breaks rules or makes them. Whatever he does, Childers is damn good at it.

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