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Sunday, February 11, 2007
Updated: February 15, 2:38 AM ET
Penalties likely for Kahne, Kenseth teams

By Terry Blount
ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The crew chiefs for Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne could face ejection from the Daytona 500 after NASCAR officials discovered unapproved alterations during Sunday's post-qualifying inspection.

First Report: Rough Start
The qualifying runs for the Daytona 500 brought forth accusations of cheating aimed at several high-profile driving teams. A rough start to the NASCAR season, today (ESPN, 3:30 ET) on Outside the Lines.

Robbie Reiser is Kenseth's crew chief on the No. 17 Ford. Kenny Francis has the same responsibilities for Kahne's No. 9 Dodge, but is called the team director.

A similar situation a year ago brought a four-race suspension and a $25,000 fine for Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson.

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said the alterations by Reiser and Francis were considered as blatant as the device found on Johnson's car to adjust the height of the rear window.

Ray Evernham, who owns Kahne's car, denied the infraction was intentional.

"I don't have all the information and I can't comment just yet," Evernham told ESPN.com. "I want to talk to Kenny some more tomorrow to understand what the motivation was [for the way the car was set up].

"The one thing I will say is not anybody intentionally tried to break the rules. Kenny has never done anything before. Not at all. We normally play by whatever the rules we're given."

It also was a controversial Cup beginning for Toyota, which had one of its cars go to NASCAR's version of the penalty box.

NASCAR impounded the No. 55 NAPA Toyota of driver/owner Michael Waltrip after qualifying. NASCAR officials confiscated the intake manifold off Waltrip's Camry during a prequalifying inspection.

NASCAR officials don't know if Waltrip's car is illegal, but they do know Kenseth's and Kahne's cars were.

The qualifying times for both drivers were disallowed because inspections found unapproved changes to the body of both cars. Kenseth was 11th and Kahne was 28th in the qualifying speeds.

Hunter said penalties will follow for both teams, probably in an announcement on Monday.

"We found unapproved devices that enhanced the aerodynamics of those cars," Hunter said. "There were holes where it was supposed to be sealed. One of the cars had holes in the wheel well."

Both cars will be allowed to start at the back of the second Gatorade Duel qualifying race on Thursday. Both teams are guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500 because they were among the top 35 teams in points last year.

Waltrip's fate is up in the air. Hunter said NASCAR officials decided to impound the car before qualifying, but allowed Waltrip to make a qualifying run after placing a new manifold on the car.

Now NASCAR officials will inspect the entire car to determine if any violations exist.

"Our inspectors will go over that car a with a fine-tooth comb," Hunter said. "I don't know how long we will keep it. As of right now, we do not know that the manifold is illegal, but we want to know."

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's director of competition, said officials sent the manifold to the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., for testing Monday.

"Our inspector caught a substance inside that we didn't really know what it was," Pemberton said about the manifold.

Pemberton wouldn't give specifics about the problem, but Waltrip said inspectors found oil inside the manifold.

"And it's not supposed to be there," Waltrip said. "So they took it to see why the oil was there.

"I don't really understand what is going on, and people here a lot smarter than me don't understand it either, but we'll figure it out. I'm sure it'll be fine."

Hunter wasn't buying Waltrip's explanation. "Our inspection team was not comfortable that it was oil," Hunter said.

Before the 2005 Daytona 500, Robby Gordon's crew chief was fined $50,000 and the team was docked 25 car owner points for an unapproved intake manifold that inspectors discovered.

Waltrip is one of three team owners for Toyota's debut season in Nextel Cup. He has a three-car team that includes Dale Jarrett in the No. 44 UPS Camry and rookie David Reutimann in the No. 00 Domino's Toyota.

Reutimann was the fastest Toyota in qualifying at 14th. He turned a lap at 184.419 mph. Waltrip was 24th, at 183.899. Jarrett was 48th in qualifying with a lap at 182.061 mph.

Pemberton said the situation with the No. 55 problem was not specific to any individual manufacturer.

Hunter has been involved in NASCAR for more than 40 years. He's seen it all, but said Sunday's situation surprised him after what happened with Knaus a year ago.

"But by the same token, I think our inspection process gets better every year," Hunter said. "We are committed to try to stop all the games being played."

ESPN.com NASCAR writer David Newton contributed to this report

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.