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RCR Appeal Denied But Penalties Reduced

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 17 2015
Ryan Newman to take a points hit after racing appeals panel came down on his Richard Childress Racing team. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Ryan Newman to take a points hit after racing appeals panel upheld penalties issued to his Richard Childress Racing team. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel upheld the P5-level penalties levied against Richard Childress Racing’s No. 31 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team Thursday, slightly reducing the point deductions and fines stemming from sprint-logo-08tire tampering violations detected last month at Auto Club Speedway.

The three-member panel – John Capels, Hunter Nickell and Dale Pinilis – listened to testimony from representatives of RCR and NASCAR for nearly seven hours at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C. While deciding to leave the original infraction classification intact, the panel amended a portion of the punishment handed out by NASCAR on March 31.

The sanctioning body originally docked Ryan Newman 75 driver points and Childress the same amount in the car-owner standings; both penalties were reduced to 50 points Thursday. That revision moved Newman from 24th to 20th in the standings heading into Sunday’s Food City 500 Supports Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer.

Luke Lambert – crew chief on Newman’s No. 31 Caterpillar/Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS – had his original $125,000 fine reduced to $75,000. However, the panel kept Lambert’s suspension for six points-paying Cup races intact. In addition, the original six-race suspensions levied against RCR tire technician James Bender and team engineer Philip Surgen also were left intact. Lambert, Bender and Surgen are on probation through Dec. 31.

Following the race and an audit of tires taken from several teams at ACS in Fontana, Calif., NASCAR sent RCR’s tires to an outside agency for further evaluation. As a result of that audit, NASCAR announced on March 31 that the rules infractions against Newman’s No. 31 team amounted to a P5-level penalty of the 2015 NASCAR Rulebook.

Nascar.com reported that Lambert arrived at the R&D Center with large poster boards to back his case, and crew members wheeled at least two Goodyear tires into the building.

The Appeals Panel subsequently adjusted the original point and monetary penalties “because there is no written explanation of what constitutes a post-race inspection.”

Childress, the chairman/CEO of RCR, said the revisions still left the No. 31 team in a state of flux. “I’d like to thank the Appeals Panel for taking the time to hear our appeal today,” Childress said in a statement. “While they decided to reduce the penalties to the minimum penalties for a P5-violation, I am disappointed that the entire penalty was not overturned given the facts we presented.

“In order for the team to move forward, and focus our efforts on the upcoming races, Luke (Lambert), Phil (Surgen) and James (Bender) will begin serving their suspensions this weekend at Bristol. Veteran crew chief Todd Parrott will fill-in as crew chief for this weekend’s race.

“We are still discussing our options and have not yet determined whether to appeal the penalties to the Final Appeals Officer.”

Childress and his fellow-appellants have the right to appeal the decision of the Appeals Panel to Bryan Moss, National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer, in accordance with Section 15 of the NASCAR Rulebook. That decision is required to be made within 10 days.

Capels is former president and chairman of the board for the U.S. Auto Club; Nickell is former president of the SPEED Channel and Pinilis is longtime operator of historic Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The Appeals Panel issued, in part, this official statement regarding the Auto Club 400 Cup race at ACS on March 22:

Upon hearing the testimony, the decisions of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel are:

  1. The Appellants violated the Rule or Rules set forth in the Penalty Notice and it is a P5-level violation.
  2. The Panel amends the original Penalty levied by NASCAR because there is no written explanation of what constitutes a post-race inspection. Therefore the Penalty elements added under Section 12.5.3.5.3. are removed and the Penalty adjusted to:

_ Loss of 50 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Car-Owner points for Richard Childress.

_ Loss of 50 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Driver points for Ryan Newman.

_ $75,000 fine. Suspended for the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Races, plus any non-Championship Races or Special Events which might occur during that time period. Placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31 for crew chief Lucas Lambert.

_ Suspended for the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Races, plus any non-Championship Races or Special Events which might occur during that time period. Placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31 for Tire Technician James Bender.

_ Suspended for the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Races, plus any non-Championship Races or Special Events which might occur during that time period. Placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31 for Race Engineer Philip Surgen.

Tire audits were conducted after the Cup events at Phoenix International Raceway, ACS and Martinsville Speedway as rumors of teams illegally “bleeding” tires by altering air pressures circulated through the garage area. The “bleeding” process is designed to alter air pressures in a bid to improve balance, grip and durability.

NASCAR officials did not conduct tire audits after last Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson posted his second win of the season for Hendrick Motorsports. Newman finished 12th and earned 32 points.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 17 2015
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