12 Questions with Landon Cassill (2018)

For the 37th and final time in 2018, a driver answers the same 12 Questions from this weekly interview segment. And for the seventh year in a row, Landon Cassill occupies the last-but-not-least position. As a note, Cassill helped refine the questions before the season in hopes of making sure they were driver-worthy. Now it’s Cassill’s turn to answer them.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

The funny thing is, I have this belief about dreams:  Nobody cares about your dreams. Isn’t that the truth? Like, I do this to my friends and I do it to my wife. She’ll start telling me, “I had the craziest dream last night,” and I immediately go, “I don’t care.” I don’t give a shit. I don’t care about your dream. But you know how people are with telling their dreams, they continue to tell their dreams anyway. So the entire time I just continue to respond with, “I don’t care about your dream. I really don’t care.”

Just right off the bat.

I just don’t care. I don’t care.

But people will go, “Hey, damn, the craziest thing happened last night, I was here…”

…I don’t care. Your mother was there, but it wasn’t your mother, it was actually your aunt.

And you’re just like, “Sorry.”

And she was talking to you, but her lips weren’t moving, and it was insane. Yeah, I don’t care.

It’s kind of like when somebody tells you about their fantasy football team.

I don’t care. I don’t care about your fantasy football team.

Like, “Dude, I have these three receivers!”

I don’t care. Sorry. You drafted Jason Witten and you shouldn’t have because whatever…I don’t care.

So you approved this question to be on the 12 Questions, basically, and you endorsed it — and yet you don’t care about it.

Well, I feel like the answer to my question was good content. So isn’t that why we’re here? We’re here about the content.

But I will tell you the recurring racing dream that I have had my entire life.

I don’t care.

Exactly. That’s the point. Nobody cares. But since you asked the question, I’m going answer it.

I don’t know how often I have racing dreams, but I do have one recurring racing dream, and it is actually a footrace. I’m at the racetrack and the starting lineup with the rest of the competitors and it’s a 300-lap race, but I’m running. And I’m running in a tight circle. It’s not a big track either; I’m not like running a marathon. It’s like a tight little footrace and I’m elbowing people out of the way.

Like, “Oh my God, there’s Jimmie.”

Yeah, I’m like elbowing him, chicken-winging. So my recurring racing dream is that it’s a footrace.

2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?

I don’t think it should matter. I don’t typically get into all that. I think it’s stupid to do the texting the Monday after. Sometimes I’ll converse with other drivers afterwards and just be like, “I didn’t mean to get into you that one lap.” But when I hit people or they hit me, in my opinion, it’s racing and I don’t take it personally and I think other people shouldn’t take it personally.

It blows me away how we go to places like Martinsville and then we get mad at each other for running into each other. It’s like, what did you expect? I mean at Martinsville, I hit J.J. Yeley for three laps in a row and I really wasn’t intentionally hitting him — I was just trying to run really close to him because I was faster than him and I wanted to get as close as possible to him so I could stick my nose in and get the position. And my splitter was hitting under braking and the car wasn’t driving really perfect, so I kept bumping into him.

And he started flipping me off. He was starting to get mad at me, and I’m just like, “Just get over it.” And I haven’t even talked to him about it, because it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t gonna text him after the race. So the whole texting and apologizing, I think it’s stupid.

3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?

I don’t know. I don’t know.

You approved these questions!

I did. What is the best compliment someone could give you? That’s actually a good question because you’re causing me to actually seek into my…like what is my vanity, what approval am I seeking from society?

So the subtext of this question is whether somebody is going to give a racing answer — which many have this year — or is somebody going to give an answer about, “Oh, I wanna be a great dad,” or whatever, which many have as well.

My mind instantly went to racing, like what do I like to hear from people. It always makes me feel good when people are just like, “Gosh, I don’t know how you did that.” That’s a compliment. Doesn’t matter if it’s your qualifying lap or how good you are on old tires: “I don’t understand how you do that. How are you so good on long runs?” Or “How are you just able to bust off a lap every time?” I feel like that’s a great compliment. As opposed to saying, “Oh, he’s good at this kind of thing.” Just someone just (saying they) don’t understand how you’re able to accomplish what you accomplish. That’s a compliment, that’s pretty nice, that makes you feel good because it makes you feel like, “Oh, that comes natural.”

4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?

I’d like to bring Kanye to a race.

Oh my goodness. That’d be very interesting. Like would he go on rants? A lot of times they bring celebrities onto the pre-race stage where the microphone is nearby and you guys shake their hand as you come off the stage. Would Kanye be standing there and like get on the mic and start addressing the crowd and going off on a rant?

Yeah. Like if he was like a grand marshal or something like that or spoke at the driver’s meeting, yeah that would be good.

Or Donald Trump. It’d be cool to have Trump at a race. He would be the team guest, we’d just see how polarizing the fans — if they enjoy it or not.

The problem with that is — and I wasn’t around when President Bush came — but a lot of people told me about the security nightmare that day, because like the Secret Service makes you go through so much to get in and out of the garage, to get into the media center, get in the parking lots. So that’s a whole headache in itself.

I think President Trump as a guest spending time at a NASCAR race would be a headache for Secret Service because Trump would strike me as a person that would just like to go off and do his (own thing) — like he would see a car in the garage and go, “Oh, I gotta go check that out,” and then all of them are like, “That’s not part of the schedule, he’s not supposed to be going there.” That would be interesting.

5. I’m going to have to completely flip this question around for you because the question I’ve been asking all year is, “In an effort to show this is a health-conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the No. 1 pit stall selection for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?” But you are a vegan, or last I checked. 

Yes.

So obviously you would do it. So I guess the question is, for you, would you go off vegan for a month to get the No. 1 pit stall?

For one race?

For one race.

Absolutely not.

You wouldn’t do it?

No. Not even close. Nope.

Because that would just mess you up or because you’re just opposed to it?

I just have no interest in eating meat. Yeah. I don’t know.

I feel like it’s really hard to live the vegan lifestyle.

Now there’s always that debate of everything has a price, right? So it starts with the No. 1 pit stall. But if it was, “You get to have Cole Pearn as your crew chief for a year” or ” “You make the playoffs…” Or “Would you trade a Daytona 500 trophy to be able to eat meat for a month?” That raises the stakes. But that wasn’t your question. For a No. 1 pit stall, I’m out.

You’re traveling, you’re on the road all the time, and yet you’re able to keep this up — no dairy, no meat. That seems really hard.

It’s gotten a lot easier, ever since I started eating a plant-based diet. And really, the easiest default for me is to find a Whole Foods or a health food store. There’s places in Scranton, Pennsylvania that don’t have a Whole Foods and you would think, “Oh man, where am I gonna eat vegan there?” And there’s this fantastic health food store in Scranton, I go there and stock up every time I go. I’ve been vegan for five years now, and it’s gotten easier since I’ve even started.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished. I’m going 10 years back for this one. However, the tradeoff for this is you were in a good car at the time, maybe you remember, it was your JR Motorsports days driving in the Xfinity Series. This is the 2008 Xfinity race at IRP.

I got a top-10. I think I finished sixth, maybe. Hang on. That is a special race that stands out to me. As you were describing the question, I was like, “I’m not going to remember,” because I have a horrible memory and I’m not like Mark Martin. First of all, I think Mark makes it up half the time. He goes, “Oh we had a 500 (lb.) right rear spring.” Yeah, whatever Mark. I’m just teasing. (Laughs)

But I think I finished sixth at Gateway the week before, and then at IRP, that race went really well for me because I started running the top, like rim-riding the top in that race. I also ran the Truck race that weekend, but I didn’t run very well in the truck. But I rim-rided in the race and I was really fast, and I either finished like sixth or eighth.

Actually it was seventh.

Yup, sixth or eighth. Got seventh.  (Laughs)

You started 13th. Kyle Busch won this race, you finished right behind Cale Gale and ahead of Joey Logano. This was a good time in your career, and you finished ahead of Logano, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer in this race.

Wow. I was a good driver back then.

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

I don’t know who the best rapper alive is, but J. Cole went platinum with no features, so that’s pretty sweet. (Note: It was unclear whether Cassill actually believes this or was saying it because it’s a meme.)

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?

It’s probably Kyle Busch.

A lot of people said either Kyle Busch or Brad Keselowski this year.

I feel like Brad has a good genuine smile — like not his promo smile, but he’s got a nice smile to him. Kyle — come on, Kyle, he’s just got that (face). Kyle, I’m gonna punch you the next time I see you.

9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks. Pick one to be your crew chief, one to be your spotter and one to be your motorhome driver.

I want LeBron to be my crew chief. I think Tom can be the spotter, and Taylor can be the motorhome driver. I like Taylor Swift’s music, my wife likes Taylor Swift’s music, so yeah, she can drive the bus, she can set everything up, she can play with the kids and the wife and we can spend some quality time with her on her downtime.

And I feel like LeBron will be a good leader, a good coach, a good crew chief, and if Tom keeps me entertained up on the spotter’s stand, that would be good.

10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?

Follow Ryan Newman.

Because he’s a blocker, or because he knows where to go?

Because he knows where to go. And because he’s a blocker. He just blasts through the crowd. (Laughs)

The best way to find the pre-race bathroom is I’ve pretty much been doing it long enough at these tracks that I typically know where to go, which ones have buildings and which ones have port-a-potties and where they’re at.

Another good way to do that question would be like, “When do you do your pre-race bathroom break, before or after…?”

Wait a minute. You helped come up with this question and now you’re changing the language in the last one of the year!

Well, you never know until you’re in the heat of the moment on how the question comes across.

This actually got some decent answers this year. Some drivers had secrets.

I don’t know if I have any pre-race bathroom secrets. There is a port-a-potty at Martinsville that nobody knows about that I always go to and there’s never a line. Martinsville has such a tiny infield; the main bathrooms are kind of at the start/finish line, but the cars always line up towards Turns 3 and 4. So there’s one port-a-potty that everybody goes to and there’s always a line with crew guys and drivers and everybody. But there’s one that I go to that is out of sight, and I never have a line. (Smiles)

11. NASCAR misses the highlight reel value brought by the Carl Edwards backflips and decides a replacement is needed. How much money would they have to pay you to backflip off your car following your next win?

If I knew I was going to get a win, then they wouldn’t have to pay me anything. I would just do it for free. I would just train for my backflip. If they can pay my medical bills — I don’t think I’m capable of doing a backflip. I think when I was a kid I was able to do one, like on a trampoline, but I haven’t done a backflip since I was a little kid. So that would take some training.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was with Austin Dillon. His question for you is: If someone sponsored you on the condition that you grow your hair out all the way to your knees, would you wear it that length and keep it that way until you were done racing to keep the sponsor happy?

If I knew I was going to have that sponsor for as long as I have my hair that long, then yeah. That’s just guaranteeing (funding), especially if it’s like a big sponsor. If it was enough money to be really competitive or something like that, yeah, it’d be worth the money.

That’s a lot of hair to tuck into your helmet.

It’s guaranteed. If you’re sitting here saying, “You have a guaranteed career-long sponsor if you had hair down to your butt or knees or whatever,” first of all, I don’t know if my hair could grow that long.

Seems like it’s well on its way some of these days.

Yeah it does. Yeah, I would do it, because from that point on, I would never need to seek sponsorship and we could just build our team and make cars go fast.

Do you have a question I could ask a driver going into next season?

I feel like I’ve had some good questions in the past. It’s hard to back them up.

This is the problem with the actual 12 questions themselves now.

Running out of questions?

Yeah. It’s been nine years.

I feel like the ultimate 12 Questions accomplishment is when one of the driver-submitted questions actually gets on the list to be one of the 12 questions. That’s when you know you’ve made it.

Now that I think about it, and I have to go back and check this, I think I stole one of your questions for this year. I think one of the questions that is on here…now I can’t remember this one. (Note:  This was actually last year, when Cassill’s question “What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?” made the list.)

It’s probably one of the ones that I criticized.

One of the ones I took from last year might have made it on it permanently, and I made you change your question. But you’re right, they sometimes do make it on permanently. A lot of pressure.

It is a lot of pressure. I was thinking something social media related, it depends if your first driver is an active social media driver.

Odds are, yes.

I think my question is, are you thinking about quitting social media? But maybe the follow-up to that question that you have to tell them is, don’t just give me a generic, “Oh yeah, I would love to get off social media.” No, seriously — what will it take to just drop it all, to just put our phones down?

So you feel like the backlash is going to get some drivers at some point to think about, “You know what, why am I on this?” That kind of thing?

Yeah. I go through that sometimes, like, “Why am I spending so much time on my phone?” But we justify it because it’s just like, “Well, that’s part of the job.” Is it? Is it part of the job? It is part of building my fanbase? I don’t know. And then sometimes it feels like, “Oh, maybe my actual life within the confines of my personal space would actually be better if I wasn’t on social media.”

Well the new “Screen Time” thing on iPhones (that shows how many hours you look at your phone)…

Do we have the balls to pull out our Screen Time right now? Get your phone out.

Oh, God. I don’t know…

Get your phone out.

It’s very sobering though. It tells you and you’re like, “Damn. This is not what I wanted to hear.”

Maybe that’s my question. Maybe that’s one of the 12 questions next year, is “Get out your Screen Time.”

“Will you share your Screen Time with us?”

Mine is five hours a day.

I think mine was significantly more than that, recently.  (Cringes)

Really? Well, that’s a guy who probably works even more on your phone. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not. I don’t know.

That’s an excuse, though.

I don’t know. I’ll send you a screenshot of this so you can include it in the article. I spent almost eight hours on Twitter in a week.

(The following images are from Landon’s phone)

It looks like 35 hours of your week was spent on the screen. Not great, probably.

That is not great.

How soon will you let your children have screens? This is what I’m starting to wrestle with already.

I mean, I want them to, because I think they’re gonna live in a software/Internet society, so they need to be savvy. I think one of the best things for me was being Internet-savvy at a young age, spending a lot of time online.

But what are you saying is too much?

I think life would be happier if we didn’t have all that, but I don’t know. But I’m not gonna keep my kids from having technology when technology is what teaches you the skill sets that are important for our future.


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Landon Cassill:

Sept. 1, 2010

April 27, 2011

Nov. 14, 2012

Nov. 12, 2013

Nov.  11, 2014

Nov. 17, 2015

Nov. 15, 2016

Nov. 15, 2017

 

The Top Five: Breaking down the Phoenix playoff race

Five thoughts after Sunday’s NASCAR playoff race at ISM Raceway…

1.  Big stage is set

After all the crazy twists of these playoffs, NASCAR ended up with the best four drivers of the season going for the championship.

There are no flukes here. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. have the best average finishes of anyone in the Cup Series this season (in that order). In the traditional/non-playoff point standings, which are still kept by racing-reference.info, those four drivers are also tops in season-long points.

It’s a stout group, and you could make a case for any of them winning the title.

“This is the closest four that have been in our sport in a long time,” Busch said.

There are no newcomers among them, either.  Each contender has been in the final four at least twice — even though this is only the fifth year of its existence. Logano is the least experienced of the contenders — and yet this is his 10th season.

“Three of us have won in the format and all four of us have lost in the format,” Busch said. “Overall, it just comes back to a lot of things having to go your way.”

So what’s going to happen at Homestead? Well, it would be a surprise if the drivers didn’t run 1-2-3-4 for much of the race, and maybe even finish that way.

Harvick though, remains the favorite. It’s a 1.5-mile track and he’s consistently been the fastest off the truck all year. Strange things can happen, as we saw at Phoenix, but the Fords are still better than the Toyotas on intermediate tracks.

So that said, my prediction for the finishing order of this year’s final four is: Harvick-Logano-Busch-Truex.

2. Playoff races raise the game

It’s OK to have a love/hate relationship with this playoff format. There are days when it seems far from the best way to decide an auto racing champion.

But Sunday was not one of those days. The playoff pressure absolutely elevated the Phoenix race and made it far more compelling than it may have been otherwise.

Look at how desperately Aric Almirola was driving at the end. Look at the decisions made by Kurt Busch and his team to try to preserve their points position over Harvick. The whole atmosphere and vibe of the race was dramatically enhanced by the playoffs, and it made for a highly entertaining day.

Yeah, it’s still weird to have one race at a given track decide the season-long winner. On the other hand, it gains credibility when the best drivers all advance — and the addition of playoff points have certainly helped.

“I think the format we have now is the absolutely best scenario we could have when you look at it for the entirety of the year,” Busch said.

3. Smoke’s thoughts

Tony Stewart had his hands full on Sunday. He knew it would be challenging for a team owner — that’s what happens when you have four teammates going for one spot. But he had to step into an extra role as well: Counselor.

As Kurt Busch was having a meltdown on the radio after a tough penalty took  the race lead away and cost him a lap, Stewart intervened and told Busch to take a deep breath. After the race, Stewart consoled Busch with an embrace and words of encouragement — something Busch expressed gratitude for later.

It was if the current Stewart was talking to the racer Stewart from 10 years ago as the voice of reason.

Scary, isn’t it?” Stewart told me after the race. “Got some experience in those situations. I think that helps, at least being in that position. (Kurt is) a good guy. He’s come a long way, but he still gets in those positions where the heat of battle takes over. It’s understandable. That’s why we do what we do.

“Can’t blame him for it. You just know everybody is going to hang on every word he says, so you just try to help him out more than anything. After his penalty, he did an awesome job of locking back in. He was running the leaders down from the back. Pretty proud of him.”

Overall, Stewart was unhappy about the race unfolded. He called it “chaotic” and indicated there were too many factors affecting such a big race.

What specifically stuck out?

The scenarios and everything around it, drivers that shouldn’t even be in the Cup Series causing cautions, stupid stuff happening,” he said.

4. Harvick’s comeback

This will probably be lost to history, but let’s take a moment to appreciate Harvick’s remarkable feat at Phoenix.

After dominating the first stage, he had a tire go flat with two laps left in the stage and limped to pit road — which was actually fortunate timing, because the stage break saved him from going more laps down.

Then he fought his way to the free pass position —  and got it — despite a damaged car. Later, his team used strategy to put him in a favorable spot to be in front of the late wreck that would have ended his playoff hopes — but instead helped him sail through on points as his competitors crashed.

Harvick downplayed it all afterward, saying it was “just another day.” He said his only thoughts were trying to get back to the pits instead of worrying about the championship.

But the survival and focus of his team to persevere through a day that could have been a heartbreaker is one to remember — especially if he ends up winning his second title next week.

5. What if?

An intriguing scenario popped up late in the race with Kyle Busch and Almirola restarting side-by-side. If Busch allowed Almirola to beat him on the restart — and potentially for the win — then it would have eliminated Harvick, who is clearly Busch’s biggest competitor for the title.

Busch said it crossed his mind, but never seriously. He wasn’t going to give up a win, even if it means Harvick would beat him next week.

You always want to go up against the best of the best, and the strength of the season has been us three and the 22,” Busch said.

In addition, Busch said it wouldn’t have worked anyway. Had Almirola gotten by on the restart and Busch fallen in line, he predicted Brad Keselowski would have won instead.

“I don’t think the 10 was capable enough of being able to lead the race and not have somebody else pass him, know what I mean?” Busch said. “That would have been dumb.”

Crew chief Adam Stevens,  though, seemed like he wouldn’t have been disappointed had it happened.

“It wouldn’t have upset me if it did happen, but we weren’t going to do anything to make it happen,” Stevens said.

I’m not at all saying Busch should have done it — no real racer would give up a win, and it also would have been a huge scandal for not letting the race play out — but it’s an interesting scenario that only pops up in NASCAR’s unique playoff format.

How I Got Here podcast: My own story

This is admittedly quite awkward and feels egotistical, but after receiving enough listener feedback requesting this podcast, I decided to share my own story this week. Thanks to those who listened to and enjoyed the How I Got Here series this season, which concludes with this episode.

NASCAR sheds light on Kevin Harvick’s illegal spoiler penalty

NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller held a teleconference with reporters on Wednesday night to discuss the penalty issued to Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 team earlier in the day.

Among the notable comments:

— Teams are required to purchase the spoilers from a single supplier called Richardson. As such, there’s typically no need to check the spoiler at the racetrack because they’re all the same and can’t be modified. However, NASCAR believes the No. 4 team actually manufactured its own spoiler and passed it off as the standard one — except the illegal spoiler was offset to the right in relation to the center of the car, which was “definitely (an) aerodynamic performance (advantage),” Miller said. NASCAR considered making it an L2 penalty (75 points) but settled on the high end of an L1 penalty (40 points).

— A NASCAR inspector at the track had noticed something “a little suspicious” about the spoiler at the track, Miller said. That led officials to further examine it after returning to the NASCAR Research and Development Center in North Carolina. However, Miller said the penalty was not something that was obvious to the eye or stuck out. But once it was discovered and compared against the CAD drawing in the rulebook, Miller said it was “black and white.”

— Due to the No. 4 team’s infraction, Miller said NASCAR will now be unbolting every spoiler and examining them during at-track inspection for the final two races. That will add another step to the inspection process, which NASCAR obviously didn’t want. “It’s unfortunate now we’ll be pulling spoilers off and have to do another inspection,” Miller said. “The teams should really be bringing legal cars to the racetrack and we shouldn’t have to do that inspection all the time.”

Miller made it clear NASCAR is tiring of teams pushing the limits and is ready for a further crackdown. “I think we’re getting into borderline ridiculous territory,” he said. So what does that mean? For one thing, NASCAR is considering disqualifying illegal cars next season, and officials will discuss the possibility during the offseason. “We’ve heard the fans call out to, ‘Why don’t you disqualify the offending car?’ That’s actually a topic of discussion, along with other things related to the deterrence model,” Miller said. He added the penalties and consequences for teams who bring cars that don’t pass inspection or fit within the rules will be increased next season to a harsher level. “We are hoping we can change the culture to where we don’t have to play this cat-and-mouse game with the teams all the time,” he said. “We have to make the consequences more than just saying, ‘Take that off.’ ‘Take that off’ isn’t working anymore.”

— NASCAR will perform an engine teardown and enhanced post-race inspection immediately after the Homestead race (as it has done in the past) rather than wait until midweek to scrutinize the championship car for any funny business. “Homestead could potentially turn into a Sunday night issue, but it certainly won’t be in the middle of the week,” Miller said. “We will be able to have eyes on those cars and see those things quickly at pre-race and post-race at Homestead. We feel good about the process.”

News Analysis: Kevin Harvick penalized, loses locked-in spot at Homestead

What happened: Kevin Harvick’s ticket to Homestead was revoked after NASCAR found his team used an illegal spoiler during the No. 4 car’s dominating win at Texas. Harvick will technically keep the win, but he lost the benefit that advanced him to the championship race at Homestead. He also lost 40 points (of the 60 he earned in the race), which now puts him just three points ahead of the cutoff line heading to Phoenix. Crew chief Rodney Childers and car chief Cheddar Smith were suspended for the rest of the season, and Stewart-Haas Racing said it will not appeal. Former Kurt Busch crew chief Tony Gibson will lead Harvick’s team for the final two races. The second-place car of Ryan Blaney and the fourth-place car of Erik Jones were also found to have serious violations; the third-place car of Joey Logano was not brought back to NASCAR’s R&D Center for the same type of thorough inspection.

What it means: Given the severity of the penalty, the timing of the championship implications and the lack of an appeal by the team, the logical conclusion is this must have been a blatant attempt to skirt the rules rather than some sort of mistake or misunderstanding. It’s tough for fans to hear a race winner was cheating like this, but it’s a reminder all of the top NASCAR teams are likely pulling some sort of trickery and working in gray areas to find speed. That’s how teams separate themselves in NASCAR and why crew chiefs get paid the big bucks. Was it worth the risk? It’s hard to say, because we don’t know how long Harvick’s team had been doing this or how much of an impact it had on the team’s speed. Harvick also had another encumbered win earlier this season (in Las Vegas), but still ended up with the most successful season of his career anyway. Plus, Harvick still goes to his best track with a chance to advance to Homestead and win the championship in spite of the penalty. If NASCAR had taken all 60 of the points Harvick earned in the race instead of 40 — thereby completely erasing his Texas performance short of taking the trophy — it might be a different story.

News value (scale of 1 to 10): Nine. When the best team all year dominates a race and is found to have broken the rules, then gets removed from the championship, that’s about as big as it gets. I would put this as a 10, but I have to leave some room in case the Homestead winner cheats and gets stripped of the championship — which seems like a real possibility now.

Three questions: What exactly did Harvick’s team do to the spoiler that made it illegal? Will Harvick experience any dropoff in performance after the team was caught, or will this not have any impact on the car’s speed? If NASCAR had taken the win away in this case, who would get the trophy given the second-place car was also illegal and the third-place car wasn’t inspected as thoroughly?