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Tony Stewart and NextGen Cars’ Unsavory Affair Began in 2022 With Kevin Harvick for Unwarranted Modifications

Published 02/27/2024, 8:00 PM EST

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NASCAR laid down the law pretty straightforward: there were certain parts of the cars you just couldn’t mess with or swap out. Step out of bounds, and you’re looking at some serious fines for both the teams and the drivers. But did that stop folks from trying to bend the rules? Not a chance.

Over the last couple of years, it’s been like a penalty season, with fines flying left, right, and center. And when it comes to catching heat, Tony Stewart‘s team has been at the front of the line, taking hits with penalties for the last three seasons straight, this year included.

Tony Stewart’s racing crew can’t seem to catch a break

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NASCAR recently dropped the hammer on them again after finding some shady parts on two of their cars in Atlanta. Noah Gragson and Ryan Preece, the guys behind the wheels of the #10 and #41 cars, got their points slashed big time. They’re basically starting from the bottom now, with Gragson in a hole with negative points and Preece sitting at zero. And let’s not forget Chase Briscoe and Josh Berry, who aren’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard either.

But, let’s rewind to when this mess started in 2022. The idea was to make things cheaper and fairer by using the same parts for all cars. But, Stewart-Haas Racing, the brainchild of Tony Stewart, keeps finding itself in hot water, trying to tweak those parts to get ahead. Like when Kevin Harvick got slapped with a massive fine and his crew chief got benched for messing with parts at Talladega [in 2022]. NASCAR anchored Harvick and SHR 100 points each, fined crew chief Rodney Childers $100,000, and suspended him for the next four races. NASCAR pointed the penalties were for modification of a single source supplied part.

Then, in 2023, they outdid themselves by getting caught with counterfeit parts on Chase Briscoe‘s car. That stunt cost them an L3-level penalty with a record-breaking number of points and cash, not to mention a hefty suspension for their crew chief. This was a real doozy—it was the first time NASCAR ever handed out an L3 penalty in the Next Gen era, making it one of the biggest fines in NASCAR’s history.

The damage? The driver and the owner got hit with a whopping 120-point loss, and on top of that, they lost 25 points that could’ve helped them in the playoffs. The crew chief, John Klausmeier, got slapped with a huge $250,000 fine and got benched for six races that count towards points. The team tried to shrug it off as a slip-up in quality control but didn’t bother fighting the penalty.

Furthermore, at Talladega in 2023, Kevin Harvick, the former driver of Tony Stewart’s team, got the boot for not keeping his windshield fasteners tight throughout the whole race, breaking one of NASCAR’s rules.

It wasn’t just them, though. Other teams, including Hendrick Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, and Roush Fenway Racing got caught in the act, too, trying to pull a fast one with these standard parts and facing hefty fines and points losses.

But it looks like Stewart-Haas Racing, just like its boss Tony Stewart, has turned into the bad boy of NASCAR, always in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. However, this year, it’s not just them – even Joey Logano from Team Penske is feeling NASCAR’s wrath.

Joey Logano found himself in hot water

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Racing in the #22 Ford Mustang, Joey Logano had to start from the very back on Sunday after the bigwigs noticed something off with his gloves. Turns out, his gloves had this extra piece between the thumb and index finger that wasn’t by the book, landing him a $10,000 fine and a penalty that had him zipping through the pit lane during the race. The penalty also impacted his performance, leaving him to cross the finish line in a less-than-stellar 28th place.

While the fine’s definitely a bummer, Logano’s probably breathing a sigh of relief that NASCAR didn’t dock his points too. After the weekend’s dust settled, he found himself sitting in P31 place in the standings, not the spot one would expect a two-time Cup Series champ to be. So far, Logano and the Penske crew haven’t said a peep about the whole ordeal.

Read More: Tony Stewart And Co’s “Counterfeit” Approach Has Worsened SHR’s Next Gen Car Struggles

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Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s Senior VP of Competition, didn’t mince words about how serious they are taking this. On SiriusXM’s NASCAR Radio, he laid out clearly that messing with safety gear is a big no-no. They’ve had plenty of sit-downs about keeping cars and drivers safe, so when someone decides to tweak their safety equipment, it’s bound to raise eyebrows and possibly lead to more penalties down the line for Logano.

As of now, there’s been radio silence from both the teams- SHR and Team Penske- and drivers about this sticky situation.

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

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Neha Dwivedi is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As a journalist, she religiously believes in the power of research, which allows her readers to dive deep into her stories and experience the detailed nuances of the sport like never before. Being proficient with Core Sport and Live Event Coverage, she has written multiple copies on the top entities of Stock Car Racing, like Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, and Tony Stewart.
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