Kyle Larson has 20 fewer points than he did at the end of Saturday night’s race.
NASCAR announced Tuesday that Larson had been penalized 20 points because of a rear windshield infraction found in inspection following the race. Larson’s rear windshield was visibly bowed-in after the race and it’s the fifth such penalty assessed to a Cup Series team so far this season.
Larson’s crew chief Chad Johnston has also been fined $50,000 and car chief David Bryant has been suspended for two races. NASCAR is penalizing teams for windshields that buckle because the support structures for them are supposed to be rigid at all times.
Larson said after the race that the windshield looked the way it did because of the damage his car sustained after contact with Ryan Blaney on lap 248. That seems to be a valid reason because this photo of Larson’s car — it was the best angle we could find of the rear windshield — doesn’t appear to show a buckle.
“I’m glad to see that we have a lot of damage back there because obviously if there was no damage back there we would probably get a penalty and who knows, we might still,” Larson said Saturday night. “But I’ve got a ton of damage back there. These cars are pretty rigid and one piece of damage can affect the whole rest of the car, as you can see. So, we’ll see what NASCAR says about it, but I think it’s pretty obvious that we have a ton of damage back there.”
But it may not be the actual reason. Look at this image right before Blaney hit Larson significantly enough to cause the damage to Larson’s quarterpanel. The bow appears to be there on the windshield.
It didn’t really turn out. The glare of the lights ruined it. pic.twitter.com/Tpy0wDkGiV
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) May 13, 2018
But even if the reason Larson provided was entirely valid, NASCAR has said previously that it’s not in the business of judging intent. Adding damage caveats for rear windshield issues like this is a slippery slope. We’ve seen drivers destroy their rear tires doing celebratory burnouts. In turn, those destroyed tires cause significant damage to the quarterpanels of the car. What if that winning car then showed up in victory lane with a bowed-in windshield?
Yeah, it’s not a fun scenario to think about.
Larson’s penalty comes a week after Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez were each docked 20 points for similar infractions. Kevin Harvick was the first driver to be penalized for a windshield issue after his win at Las Vegas in March and Chase Elliott was also penalized at Texas in April.
Before the penalty, Larson was 10th in the points standings. Now he’s 11th as Aric Almirola jumps into the top 10 to give Stewart-Haas Racing four cars in the top 10 in the standings. No team in NASCAR’s playoff era had ever had four teams in the top 10 through the first 12 races.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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