NASCAR's return took place on Sunday with The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway. Kevin Harvick secured the win, the 50th of his career, but his team is now facing a penalty. In fact, six racing teams in total are facing thousands in fines due to "lug-nut violations," and Harvick was among this group.
Racing's governing body issued the penalties on Monday afternoon. The No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing driven by Harvick had one lug-nut not safely secured during the post-race inspection. The same issue was prevalent on Denny Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, Joey Logano's No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, Matt Kenseth's No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing and Christopher Bell's No. 95 Toyota for Leavine Family Racing. NASCAR fined the crew chiefs from these five teams $10,000 each. However, they avoided any suspensions and will be eligible to return to Darlington Raceway for Wednesday's race.
NASCAR also revealed on Monday that the biggest penalty was levied against Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 20 team. Officials discovered that Erik Jones, who finished eighth on Sunday, had two unsecured lug-nuts on his No. 20 Toyota. Officials fined crew chief Chris Gayle $20,000 and have suspended him for one race for the safety violation of Section 10.9.10.4 in the 2020 NASCAR Rule Book. Race engineer Seth Chavka will replace Gayle for the Toyota 500 on Wednesday night.
Despite facing a penalty, the No. 22 Ford driven by Logano will start Wednesday's race in prime position to contend for his third victory of the season. He will be in the second lane, third overall when the green flag waves. Kenseth will be in the 11th spot, Hamlin will be 16th, Harvick will be 20th and Bell will be 24th. Jones will be in the middle of this group at 13th.
The Toyota 500 will be NASCAR's second race held without fans amid a continued return from a COVID-19-caused postponement. The Real Heroes 400 was viewed as a success despite the absence of cheering, and Harvick still did donuts after he won the race. Although NASCAR officials did say that no coronavirus tests were conducted on-site, they primarily checked temperatures and will continue to monitor drivers in the coming days. If any of the competitors test positive, they will have to go into isolation. A medical waiver will be given to the potentially infected driver that will account for missed races and provide access to the playoffs.