Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Rodney Childers and car chief Robert Cheddar Smith will be allowed to celebrate with the rest of their No. 4 team Sunday if Kevin Harvick wins the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, NASCAR has confirmed. The two men are under a two-race suspension that carries through Sunday’s season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Childers and Smith’s suspensions are the result of an illegal spoiler discovered in post-race inspection after the Nov. 4 race at Texas Motor Speedway. Other penalties as a result of the rules infraction were a $75,000 fine for Childress and the deduction of 40 points and a loss of the playoff benefits of winning the Texas race. Harvick requalified for the playoff championship four with a fifth-place finish at ISM Raceway near Phoenix on Nov. 11.
“When they take 10 away, we find 20. It's just the mentality of the race team,” Harvick said during Championship Media Day in Miami. "It's always pushing the limits. When they back you against the wall, make it better than it was before."
The suspensions prohibit Childers and Smith from entering areas of the Homestead-Miami Speedway premises for which credentials are required, including the garage area, pit road, and victory lane. NASCAR has ruled, though, that their suspensions will end when the checkered flag waves Sunday to end the race. So they will have access to victory lane and the championship stage area after the race to celebrate with their team, should the team win the championship.
Three other drivers—Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano — are in contention for the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series title. The highest race finisher among the four drivers will be the this year’s champion. Harvick has one Cup Series title, coming in 2014, his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Harvick and Busch led the series in wins through the first 35 races this season with eight wins each. Busch is the latest series winner, getting to victory lane at ISM Raceway. Reigning Series champion Truex Jr. is the defending winner of the season-ending race at Homestead. Although not required, the eventual series champion has won the season-finale race in all seasons since the implementation of the playoff elimination format in 2014.