Clint Bowyer vehemently defended his team’s integrity in the media center at Dover International Speedway Friday morning. He was conducting his weekly press conference as a part of his Chase media availability.
Earlier this week, Bowyer’s Richard Childress Racing No. 33 team received penalties and fines because his race-winning, Loudon Chevy was found to be too high in the rear after it was inspected in NASCAR’s research and development center. The car did pass post-race inspection at the track, however.
Bowyer’s team also received a warning for his Richmond International Raceway Chevy that he used to race his way into the Chase. That car was also found to be close to the height thresholds – so close that NASCAR felt the need to warn RCR about the car.
Bowyer started his press conference by saying that he didn’t think his team did anything wrong, and that he wouldn’t cheat to win a race. He has too much integrity for that, he said.
He then read a timeline of facts about what happened. He said that after his team was warned about the Richmond car, they were told by NASCAR that the New Hampshire car would be taken and inspected no matter what. He asked:
Who in their right mind, knowing that they’re going to take that car, wouldn’t have made triple sure that that thing was right before it went to the race track?
The Richmond car was high on both sides, he said, while the Loudon car was only high on the left side, which shows that they “definitely had it fixed.” He indicated that something happened to the car during the race. He later said that the wrecker that pushed him to victory lane because he was out of fuel could’ve bent the quarter panel enough to make it fail the R&D center inspection.
He also pointed out that the car passed both pre- and post-race inspection at the track. At the R&D center, the car is taken completely apart for inspection, and Bowyer contends that is not the way it is raced on the race track.
Bowyer also said that a rumor (news story) forced NASCAR’s hand in the matter:
I think NASCAR has a lot of problems with a lot of cars on the racetrack being out of the box, and I think they needed to set an example.
He also said he doesn’t think the penalty fit the crime because the quarter panel was sixty, one-thousandths of an inch over tolerance, and he thinks that the issue didn’t enhance his performance.
I think Bowyer’s press conference did little to help his cause or clear up the matter. His explanation is plausible; a wrecker could have bent his quarter panel. And, he surely gained a lot of fans with his angry, honest approach. But, the way that information was presented, and the tone of his press conference makes his team appear guilty.
Instead of focusing on his contention about the wrecker, he questioned NASCAR inspection methods and accused the sanctioning body of wanting to make an example out of someone. These may be valid questions and concerns, but Bowyer presented them poorly, and at the wrong time.
It’s not that his points are not valid or are off base; it’s that he chose to make them at a time when he was penalized, making them seem like a diversionary tactic, providing him with an out so he doesn’t have to be held accountable.
Again, I’m not saying either way whether he is guilty or whether I think the team cheated or not. Nor am I saying his points aren’t valid. But bringing them up the way that he did in the angry tone he used, and under his current circumstances makes them appear diversionary. He should have stuck to his contention about the wrecker, and left it at that.