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NASCAR Penalty Knocks Bowyer Out Of Title Hunt

by Pete McCole
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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Clint Bowyer
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com
Clint Bowyer’s title hopes went from flying high to crashing to the ground with a thud on Wednesday after he was docked 150 points for violation found on his race car following his win in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Measurements taken on Bowyer’s Chevrolet Impala were found to be “out of tolerance”, according to NASCAR, who issued penalties to Bowyer and his Richard Childress Racing no. 33 team.

In additional to Bowyer’s penalty, crew chief Shane Wilson was fined $150,000 and suspended for the next six races along with Car Chief Chad Haney. Team owner Richard Childress was also docked 50 owners points.

Bowyer’s win from Sunday’s race will still stand, however the 150 penalty assessed to Bowyer dropped him from second in the points to 12th – last place among the Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders - and will almost assuredly knock him out of contention for the championship.

Bowyer’s teammate, Kevin Harvick, now holds the no. 2 spot in the points, 45 behind leader Denny Hamlin.

After initially passing post-race inspection on Sunday, NASCAR chose to take a closer look at Bowyer’s car after finding his car barely within limits following inspections from the previous week’s race at Richmond.

Bowyer’s New Hampshire car was taken to NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. for further inspection, and after a detailed examination found the body of the car and it’s mounting to the chassis was not within NASCAR’s rules.

Although not specifying exactly what was out of tolerance, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby would say only that the car “did not meet specifications”

“It was the measurements that we take….specifically it revolves around how the body of the car is located on the frame,” said Darby.

The team does “have the ability to proceed with an appeal”, said Darby, and with that being the case would not disclose exactly how far out of tolerance the car was.

Bowyer’s victory on Sunday was the latest chapter in a Cinderella post-season for RCR.

After failing to put a single car in the Chase in 2009, RCR came back with all three entries making the Chase, including Bowyer - who fought tooth and nail over the final few weeks of the regular season to clinch the 12th and final spot with a sixth-place finish in the final regular-season race at Richmond on Sept. 11.

It was following that race at Bowyer’s car fell under scrutiny, with NASCAR warning RCR days after the race that Bowyer’s car was barely within tolerance levels to pass inspection.

After Bowyer’s victory at New Hampshire – which vaulted him from 12th to second in points – NASCAR opted to take a second look at his winning car. 

Although it was not the same car NASCAR warned RCR about after Richmond, NASCAR found similar discrepancies with the New Hampshire car.

“We gathered with the officials of RCR following (Richmond) and reinforced the fact that they have become increasingly, exceedingly close to the measurements that we allow for post-race,” said Pemberton. “The No. 33 car was raced in New Hampshire and was brought back to the R & D Center for inspection after the race, and that car did not meet specifications, and as a result these penalties have been issued and announced today.

“The (Richmond and New Hampshire) cars 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.”

In a statement released earlier today, Richard Childress Racing believed the out-of-tolerance measurements were a result of post-race damage to Bowyer’s car, and not a deliberate attempt to circumvent NASCAR rules, however Pemberton dismissed the idea that a wrecker or another car could have caused the discrepancy

“We looked at a lot of different things,” said Pemberton. “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.”

RCR also reiterated they were warned about Bowyer’s Richmond car and were fully aware that the New Hampshire car was going to be taken for closer inspection, leading the team to question why they would purposely compete with an illegal car that they knew was going to be impounded and risk a penalty, which the team plans to appeal.

“It doesn't make any sense at all that we would send a car to New Hampshire that wasn't within NASCAR's tolerances,” said the statement. “We will appeal NASCAR's ruling and take it all the way to the NASCAR commissioner for a final ruling, if need be.”

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