Kurt Busch talks NASCAR penalties; Pushing the rule book from a drivers perspective

How much does the driver have a say in what’s pushed as far as the limit of the NASCAR rule book?

Kurt Busch was -25 points on the cutoff line after Texas Motor Speedway. Following the penalty that was issued to Kevin Harvick, Busch was only -3.

“It’s like we won two stages without even firing up the engine on our car,” Kurt Busch said ahead of the race at ISM Raceway.

Unfortunately for Kurt Busch, he crashed while racing for the lead at ISM Raceway. His chance at a championship bid this weekend went up in smoke.


Kurt Busch was nearly a benefactor of Kevin Harvick’s rear spoiler penalty. But, what does he think of the NASCAR rule book and penalty process in general?

“It definitely could use some tweaking. And the way the penalties are handed out and the rules are interpreted,” Kurt Busch said

“All of this will be a big lesson for our sport, for the teams. And just overall interpretation in the health of the way that our fans need to understand the penalties.”

“For me, there could be a whole different type of system.”

Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch at ISM Raceway - NASCAR Cup Series
PHOENIX, AZ – NOVEMBER 11: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Ford, leads Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway on November 11, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

NASCAR teams pushing the boundaries of the said NASCAR rule book

It’s their job. It’s really what they’re suppose to do. If they aren’t, somebody else will. And that somebody else is going to beat you.

How do teams communicate that?

“Every week, everybody’s pushing the envelope. Whether it’s from the same organization or different manufactures. Everybody in the top eight is pushing in all directions.”

“Billy Scott is our leader, my crew chief on the #41 car. He communicates with William, our lead engineer. And our car chief has a job to do once that car clears tech, to report back what went through and what didn’t. Now, we have to change our balance according to that.”

Kurt Busch is referring to pre-race or pre-qualifying inspection. If they try to push the car through and it fails then that means changes likely need to be made on the car.

Any change to the body or suspension is going to change the way the car handles. If something doesn’t get through inspection, the car setup has to be adjusted to get the balance back where it was before they jumped into the inspection line. This is a big part of the car chief’s role.

“If you get a different length something or more skew, it’s going to affect the cars handling. You have to dial it in. Everybody’s pushing in all directions.”

“We just kinda keep the blinders on and go after it by our own self.”

Related: Greg Zipadelli says no NASCAR race car is 100% legal

Kurt Busch at ISM Raceway
Kurt Busch at ISM Raceway

Does the driver have much say in how far the crew chief pushes the limits of the NASCAR rule book?

Penalties can have a great impact on the image of a race team. Fans are quick to use the word ‘cheater’ and point middle fingers. But, it’s not just the team that’s affected by a penalty.

The driver is as well. But, a lot of times, the driver had absolutely nothing to do with it.

“Yeah, I’ve always encouraged Billy to use common sense, to use passion, creative ingenuity, anything and everything we can do to make our car the best that it can be.”

“For Billy, we’ve come a long way in this short year together. Once we made the playoffs with that win at Bristol, I could tell that his confidence level went up.”

“That helped everybody around us. Everybody gathered, right before the playoffs started. We put all the ideas that we possibly could, on the table.”

“It’s up to Billy to decide what’s important to push and what’s not. That’s what makes good leaders as strong as they are when they can perform at the level that they do.”

“Then, there’s times that you don’t push. Because you feel like that would hurt the integrity of the team, the integrity of yourself and your overall value as a crew chief.”

“It’s really up to the crew chief to push. For me as a driver, I just go and drive. I know that they’ve given 100% effort to get the car as fast as it can be.”

“I really don’t want to know on what gets pushed through and what doesn’t. I just go do my part as a driver.”

“This is a team sport. There’s so much that goes into pit stop practice, race strategy, aerodynamics, engine, chassis design. There’s so many categories. I just go and do my job as the drivers side of it. Similar to what a quarterback goes and does for a football team.”

Related: Adam Stevens, crew chief for Kyle Busch comments on NASCAR teams being called cheaters for pushing the rule book

PHOENIX, AZ – NOVEMBER 11: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Ford, pits after having a tire deflate during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway on November 11, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Rear spoiler

There’s one more interesting point to be made about Harvick’s rear spoiler. He had about a 1/4-inch of skew removed when NASCAR caught it in post-race tech following Texas Motor Speedway.

Harvick bounced back and grabbed the pole at ISM Raceway. But, downforce doesn’t play a huge role at a borderline short track. Next week, Harvick will run for a championship on a bad-fast 2-mile oval.

It’s a bread and butter track for NASCAR. And every bit of downforce is important. It’s exactly the type of track where these rule violations are discovered.

With about a 1/4 of skew taken away from Harvick spoiler will we see a noticeable difference in performance?

“I don’t think you’ll notice much here at Phoenix,” Busch said ahead of the race last weekend at ISM Raceway.

“Yes, aerodynamics are important at every race track. If they took an inch of his rear spoiler away, that would make a big difference.”

“I don’t think you’ll see much this weekend. This is one of those old school, short track, Saturday night brawls.”


Tony Stewart embraced Kurt Busch after his championship run came to an end following a crash

NASCAR provides the details of Kevin Harvick’s rear spoiler violation

2017 NASCAR Cup Series penalty reports and the most frequent violators

NASCAR considered handing out an L2 penalty to Kevin Harvick after Texas

Stewart-Haas Racing issues a statement following the penalty at Texas

NASCAR team owner Tony Stewart comments on the NASCAR inspection process


Kyle Busch | Kevin Harvick | Stewart-Haas Racing |  Homestead-Miami Speedway | NASCAR