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Window violation costs Kevin Harvick 7 playoff points

Kevin Harvick will lose the seven playoff points he earned for winning the NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Las Vegas after NASCAR determined that his rear window and rocker panel extension violated technical regulations.

NASCAR issued the penalty Wednesday, docking Harvick 20 points, fining crew chief Rodney Childers $50,000 and suspending car chief (the crewmember responsible for setting up the car) Robert Smith for two races.

Harvick also can't use the victory to determine playoff eligibility. Because he already had a win the previous week at Atlanta, that should have no impact. But if there are more winners than spots in the 16-driver playoff field, the number of wins -- the Vegas win wouldn't count in Harvick's total -- is the first tiebreaker, and points are used as the second tiebreaker.

With the points penalty, Harvick dropped from first to third in the standings.

The loss of the playoff points, though, is significant. Drives carry playoff points through the first three elimination rounds, and those points can help determine whether a driver advances to the next round.

Stewart-Haas Racing can appeal the penalty and ask for the suspension to be deferred pending appeal. It has three days to decide whether it wants to appeal.

"We're going to take the time and evaluate our options, and we plan to continue dialogue with NASCAR to fully understand the rationale behind the penalty," SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said in a statement.

The NASCAR ruling Wednesday was not a big surprise. Photos of Harvick's car have circulated throughout social media since the race Sunday.

Childers told ESPN on Tuesday that he believed a brace failed about two-thirds through the race, causing the window to buckle. He also questioned those saying the buckled window would help the car aerodynamically.

"You don't want the back of the rear roof sharp and pointed," he said. "It needs to be round and smooth."

Regardless, NASCAR rules are pretty clear: "Installed rear window braces and supports must keep the rear window glass rigid in all directions, at all times and all NASCAR templates must fit correctly."

The car did pass the new "template" tech station -- a body scan -- postrace, but NASCAR's additional inspection at its research center in North Carolina determined that Harvick's car violated the rule as well as the requirement that the rocker panel extension (the bottom of the side skirt) be made of aluminum.