Roush team reacts to suspension

Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 team’s 11th-place qualifying effort for next Sunday’s Daytona 500 was disqualified by NASCAR on Sunday after officials found one of the wheel wells on the car improperly sealed during post-qualifying inspection. As a result, Kenseth will start one of Thursday’s Gatorade Duels, the two qualifying races to determine the starting lineup for the Daytona 500, at the rear of his respective field.

In addition, NASCAR has docked the No. 17 team 50 driver and owner points, fined crew chief Robbie Reiser $50,000 and suspended Reiser for four races starting with the Daytona 500.

On Tuesday, Roush appointed Chip Bolin, long-time engineer on the No. 17 team, as the interim crew chief for the remainder of Speedweeks at Daytona and throughout Reiser’s suspension.

"I am saddened by the fact that Robbie will not be with the No. 17, Matt Kenseth-driven Nextel Cup race car for this year's Daytona 500," said owner, Jack Roush. "We remain very confident about the preparation of this team for 2007 and remain confident of our chances for success in the Daytona 500 and in the upcoming races."

"To be clear on my position regarding NASCAR’s decision to penalize the infraction, I respect and accept NASCAR's determination that the car was out of compliance as it was inspected after Sunday's qualifying attempt. I have asked (Roush Racing President) Geoff Smith to evaluate whether the penalties assessed are unduly harsh for the circumstances before making a final decision as to whether or not we will appeal the severity of the penalty imposed.

"I feel certain however, that there was no intention on Robbie's part to side step any NASCAR rule or policy in this regard.

"NASCAR officials have a tremendous responsibility and a most difficult task, charged with making and enforcing the many rules and regulations which make possible the sport around which we build our lives. We at Roush Racing are determined to abide by all of NASCAR's mandates and are committed to make our best effort to avoid future embarrassments which are within our control."

"The extreme harshness of the penalty surprises me given NASCAR's recent history of imposing lesser penalties on habitual offenders engaged in radically more flagrant rule offenses," said Smith. "For that reason, I am likely to recommend that we appeal the penalty assessment, although I have some more study to do before I officially make that recommendation."

For Reiser, the Daytona 500 will be the first Cup race he has missed atop the No. 17 pit box since the team's inception in 1999, 255 races ago.

"Obviously I'm disappointed with the penalty and the fact I won’t be there at the Daytona 500 and for the following races," said Reiser. "It was my job to ensure that the cap on the wheel well was properly secured. But it came off during our qualifying run and we ended up outside of the rules because of it. I understand NASCAR has a set of rules and we have to abide by them and it’s ultimately my responsibility to make sure we do that.

"I have full confidence in Chip, Matt and the guys. This group has been together for so long and they know how to get the job done. We’ve got fast cars, a great team, and a great driver, and if I have done my job as a crew chief, then there’s no reason this setback should keep us from competing for wins during my absence at the track."

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