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NASCAR Penalizes Bowyer, Team

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 22 2010

Clint Bowyer has been heavily penalized by NASCAR. (Photo by Gregg Ellman-Pool/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

NASCAR has come down hard on Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer and his team after a post-race inspection found the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing car to be illegal.

Bowyer, a Chase driver, was fined 150 championship points. His crew chief, Shane Wilson, was suspended for six races and fined $150,000. Richard Childress was docked 150 owner points.

Bowyer won Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which was the first race of the Chase playoff.

Afterward, his car and engine were confiscated by NASCAR officials and taken to the Research and Development facility in Concord, N.C.

There, a closer examination of the car was made and the problem was found. Officials on Wedneseday would not get specific about the exact nature of the problem.

In a statement issued early Wednesday evening, team-owner Richard Childress team said he would appeal the penalties. In doing so, je gave a bit of an explanation of the source of the problem.

“We feel certain that the cause of the car being out of tolerance by sixty thousandths of an inch, less than 1/16 of an inch, happened as a result of the wrecker hitting the rear bumper when it pushed the car into winner’s circle,” the statement said. “The rear bumper was also hit on the cool down lap by other drivers congratulating Clint on his victory. That’s the only logical way that the left-rear of the car was found to be high at the tech center. We will appeal NASCAR’s ruling and take it all the way to the NASCAR commissioner for a final ruling, if need be.”

Bowyer was the 12th seed when the Chase started but jumped 10 spots after the victory. The penalty, if the appeal fails, will drop Bowyer back to 12th.

During a teleconference Wednesday afternoon, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said that the Childress team had been warned after the race at Richmond International Raceway two weeks ago that its cars had been coming up very close to tolerances.

The team was warned again, he said, after the race in New Hampshire. The inspection at the R and D  Center found the car to have exceeded the allowed tolerances.

“No,” Pemberton said, “the cars (at Richmond and New Hampshire) weren’t the same, but it was in the same area of the car in the body measurements that we talked to the 33 about or RCR about. It was in the same area.”

Hendrick Motorsports was warned in the past that a couple of its cars were close to being illegal but no penalties were issued.

The difference, Pemberton said, was that the Hendrick team heeded the warning.

“When we work with the teams,” he said, “when we see them heading in a direction that could wind up bad for everybody, we get together and we talk about it. Hendrick immediately fixed any errors that they had in what could be – moving forward could become a problem, and that’s the difference between that and today. These problems weren’t – these issues weren’t addressed.

NASCAR did not consider taking the victory away from Bowyer and RCR.

The car in question had passed pre-race inspection. Asked how it could fail the inspection after being taken to the R and D facility, Sprint Cup series director John Darby explained that the tests in Concord are much more thorough than the ones conducted at the tracks.

“It’s really two different styles of inspections,” Darby said. “And here’s what I think I can relate it to the best: As everybody is a probably a lot more familiar with the engines before the race, the best we can from the external atmosphere of the engine or the environment, we have some gauges and machines we do. But to inspect the engine as thoroughly as we do in post-race is very intrusive. And what I mean by that is the engine has to be disassembled to allow us to measure the internal components of the engine.

“The car today is much that same way. The big claw or the big grid that everybody has seen us use on the exterior of the car ensures us that the fenders are the right shape, the roof is the right width and the length and the construction of the body from a shape aspect is correct. But it’s much, again, just like an engine; it’s too intrusive to run the rest of the inspection in the field because to do that you have to disassemble so much of the race car. The engine has got to be out, certain crush panels have got to be out, a lot of interior components have got to be out to be able to set the car up and accurately measure the car like we do at the tech center. And that’s why we do it here and that’s why we don’t do it in the field.”

Pemberton said he doubted the irregularity with the car could have been caused by contract on the track or “incidental” contact caused when the tow truck had to push Bowyer’s car to Victory Lane after it ran out of fuel.

“We looked at a lot of different things, and we feel like we have a lot of documentation from cars for the last four years or so, and we understand that we have had cars with some severe body damage and cars without, and we don’t feel that the incidental contact from a push from a wrecker helped push this car out of tolerance at all,” Pemberton said.

In his statement, Childress insisted the car was legal when it left the shop for New Hampshire.

“It doesn’t make any sense at all that we would send a car to New Hampshire that wasn’t within NASCAR’s tolerances. I am confident we fixed the area of concern and the New Hampshire car left the race shop well within the tolerances required by NASCAR,” Childress said.

The NASCAR officials said that the size of the penalty was based upon what Red Bull Racing was docked a couple years ago for a similar offense. They warned teams that in the future, even larger penalties could be imposed under similar circumstances.

Pemberton was asked if he thought the problem gave the car a competitive advantage.

“I don’t think that’s for us to decide. We’re into the rules and regulations part, and the car didn’t meet specifications, and that’s the bottom line,” he said.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 22 2010
One Comment

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  • Marybeth says:

    Last year, when the 5 & 48 had ‘problematic’ cars, they did not get 150 point & cc loss. That is back when the 5 & 48 were still made in the same garage.
    “NASCAR spent an extended amount of inspection time with the #11-Denny Hamlin and #48-Jimmie Johnson cars which failed to pass the height sticks in the first attempt.” I do not believe that RCR would be warned one week & not make sure it was correct the next week. They passed 3 inspections before and after the race. Do you suppose that they see Clint as a serious threat to JJ winning his 5th so they are removing the threat now…?
    & they wonder why attendance & ratings are down. As someone said, Kevin Harvick won the championship this year. It is easier to fix 10 races than 36.