Kevin Harvick’s team was understandably ecstatic when it found out NASCAR wasn’t giving them a penalty for a sure violation during the team’s final green-flag pit stop of the race on Sunday.
Harvick’s pit crew let a tire roll towards the middle of pit road. The tire was much further away than an arm’s length from Harvick’s tire changer and should have spurred an uncontrolled tire penalty.
NASCAR reviewed the stop with its camera-based officiating system — an officiating system the sport says is far more accurate than its previous system centered around officials observing on pit road — and then the officials in the officiating truck inexplicably didn’t penalize Harvick’s team.
Harvick was second to Kyle Busch at the time of the pit stop and had a chance to race Busch for the win because of the no call. Had he been penalized, he likely would have lost a lap. After the race, NASCAR admitted that it screwed up the call.
The news of the non-penalty was delivered via an official stationed on pit road. And in the aftermath of NASCAR’s non-call, Fox’s cameras captured Harvick’s car chief Robert Smith fist-bumping the official and another person in the pits slapping the back of the official.
It’s not a good look. At all. Imagine a pitcher fist-bumping the second-base umpire after a strike three call by the home plate umpire on a clear ball four.
The optics of the moment were not lost on NASCAR president Brent Dewar, who was tagged in a Twitter user’s tweet while responding to a tweet of ours with the GIF above, agreed with how bad it looked for NASCAR.
— brent dewar (@brentdewar) April 9, 2018
Moments like what happened in Harvick’s pit stall are how conspiracies get created. To be clear, the missed call on Harvick was not a grand conspiracy. Because if NASCAR was in the business of conspiracies — and it isn’t — it would undoubtedly do a better job at hiding them. It was a terrible missed call followed up by a terrible-looking moment. NASCAR can and should do better moving forward. It’s clear they understand that.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.