[Update at bottom of article]
The appeals committee upheld the 150-point penalty NASCAR issued to Richard Childress Racing after it determined during an inspection at NASCAR’s research and development center that Clint Bowyer’s race-winning Loudon Chevy exceeded NASCAR-mandated height requirements.
Richard Childress brought in an accident reconstruction expert who said that the appeals committed paid no attention to his testimony.
The team was warned of problems with the height of the rear of its cars after Bowyer’s Richmond Chevy, which he used to race his way into the Chase, was dangerously close to the height tolerance thresholds. As a result, the team was told that its New Hampshire Chevy would be tested, regardless of how it finished on the track.
The following week, Bowyer drove his Chevy to victory lane, and second in the Sprint Cup Series points. The car passed post-race inspection. And, as promised, NASCAR took the car to its R&D center for further evaluation.
The car was found to be “the width of a quarter” to high on the left rear. The team was penalized for violating Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-J (any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20-3 (car body location specifications in reference to the certified chassis did not meet NASCAR-approved specifications) of the NASCAR rule book.
Crew Chief Shane Wilson was fined $150,000 and suspended for the next six races and placed on probation for the remainder of the calendar year. Car chief Chad Haney was also suspended for the next six races and placed on probation until Dec. 31.
Clint Bowyer was penalized 150 driver points, dropping him from second in the standings to 12th, and Richard Childress was penalized 150 owner points.
During his media availability at Dover International Speedway, Bowyer ehemently defended his team’s integrity. 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?
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 that he did not think the issue enhanced his performance.
His team argued that the height problem could have been the result of the wrecker pushing him to victory lane. That contention and several others were later questioned by Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin called Bowyer’s contention that the height issue didn’t give him an advantage “a crock.” He also indicated that RCR had been warned before and that the garage area knew that the team was having issues with pushing the limits on height.
Hamlin’s comments were made after Bowyer pointed out that Jimmie Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevy and Denny Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota had to go through post-race inspection because they failed the height sticks the first time.
Richard Childress later weighed in on the matter, telling the media that he could look everyone in the garage area in the eyes because he knows the team hasn’t cheated to get where it is. He also said he could assure everyone that the cars were legal.
In upholding the penalty, however, NASCAR disagreed. In a statement, the appeals panel wrote:
Claims that the wrecker caused the infraction were negated by the telemetry from the car which did not show a sharp impact spike; by the fact that the rear template still fit snugly across the entire rear of the car; by a visual inspection of the rear of the car which showed nothing of note in the way of damage; and a visual review of the videotape of post race assistance tendered by the wrecker which appeared as relatively gentle pushing.
RCR can appeal the penalty to John Middlebrook, NASCAR’s Chief Appellate Officer, and Childress has indicated that he plans to do so if necessary, according to SceneDaily.com.
During practice at Dover, Kevin Harvick, Bowyer’s teammate, got into it with Hamlin apparently upset with the comments made about his teammate and owner, and ultimately damaged his car. The two have since made up, they say.
Update: NASCAR’s Chief Appellate Officer, John Middlebrook, upheld the points penalty issued by NASCAR for Clint Bowyer’s race-winning, Loudon Chevy. But, he reduced the fine from $150,000 to $100,000, and the suspensions of crew chief Shane Wilson, and car chief Chad Haney from six weeks to four.
Middlebrook said in a statement:
After reviewing all the data, presentation and factors involved, I am ruling NASCAR was correct in its decision to levy penalties. I believe that the revisions that have been made to the penalties are consistent and fair to both parties involved.