Kevin Harvick won the pole for Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
How that happened was anything but easy.
The fact the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion was the fastest qualifier on the track where he has found his most success was not surprising.
But once again Friday, Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet had difficulty getting through prequalifying inspection – a problem that has plagued several teams the past three weeks.
Friday’s inspection process wasn’t flawless, but it showed significant improvement over the past two weeks.
That’s in part to additional time put in the schedule by NASCAR to complete the inspection process and the threat of a practice time penalty added this week for teams that failed inspection more than twice.
NASCAR officials made an added change Friday as well: allowing teams that report early to go through the different inspection stations out of order.
“We put a lot of effort into it, our officials did, into the planning and executing of it, and I think it went very well,” series director Richard Buck said. “What we’ve said is we’re working together.
“We’re making sure it’s a level playing field and treating everybody the same way. The teams are learning where that line is they are pushing up against and sometimes over.”
Harvick crew chief Rodney Childers said the issues on the No. 4 car had to do with rear camber – something that was built into the car before it left Stewart-Haas Racing headquarters this week and very difficult to change after the fact.
“I think a lot of people think we’re going to get something past them, but we’re not,” Childers said. “Honestly, we’ve got to give ourselves a little more leeway.
“One thing to remember, even from NASCAR’s side, is these cars were done a long time ago. To do it right, you need to get it ready at the shop. Our car for next week is the same way – it’s already done.”
Buck completely discounts a frequent argument heard from teams that have trouble passing inspection without incident – that NASCAR’s inspection stations and tools are somehow “off” or not accurate.
“We go through very detailed compliance audits on the tools we use to inspect these cars,” Buck said. “It may not be exactly the same as the teams’ tools – but ours is the standard.
“Our machines are checked; they are checked every morning. We go through a complete regiment to make sure it is what it’s supposed to be.”
Harvick’s was one of seven cars that failed at least two times to pass prequalifying inspection. His No. 4 Chevrolet made it through on the third try, and he didn’t miss the start of the first round of group qualifying.
The only team that failed more than three times was the No. 83 Toyota driven by Matt DiBenedetto. He will miss 15 minutes of practice time next weekend at Auto Club Speedway.
“NASCAR is trying hard to make the inspection platform better; and there’s still some issues there,” Childers said. “We’ve got to do our part, too, as a race team.”
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