Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Truex fined, dropped to 18th for bringing illegal car to Daytona
By David Newton
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Martin Truex Jr. dropped four spots to 18th in the Sprint Cup points after his team was hit with a 150-point penalty by NASCAR on Tuesday for violations discovered during inspection last weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
Truex went from 88 points out of the top 12 guaranteed a spot in the 10-race playoff to 238 back with eight races before the field is set.
"It's NASCAR's game," Truex said. "They set the rules and it's up to us to abide by them."
In addition, crew chief Kevin Manion and car chief Gary Putman were suspended for six weeks and placed on probation until the end of the year. Manion was also fined $100,000.
Team owner Teresa Earnhardt was also docked 150 owner points.
"NASCAR has said from day one that they were going to be strict about this car not fitting the templates," Truex said. "We'll just deal with the penalties and move forward. I hate that we're going to lose Kevin and Gary. Obviously, they are important to the team and it'll be weird not having them at the track.
"We brought a new car to Daytona and it fit all of the templates at our shop. It doesn't appear to have been anything intentional on our part but it was still our responsibility. We'll deal with it and move on. We've dug ourselves a hole but we're not giving up. This team seems to respond the best when its back is against the wall," he said.
NASCAR discovered Truex's car was 1/16th of an inch too narrow when it went through inspection on Thursday. The team was allowed to correct the violation but after templates fit the second time through was told the car would be confiscated and sent to NASCAR's Research and Development shop.
"Somebody made a big mistake," Truex, who missed the only practice session before Saturday night's race because of the illegal car, told The Associated Press. "Shouldn't happen in this level of auto racing, but people make mistakes. We'll go on."
John Story, the vice president for motorsports operations at DEI, said the incident was not intentional.
He added that he does not believe it will be a setback in negotiations to sign Truex to a long-term deal. DEI has picked up the option on Truex for next season, but Truex has yet to acknowledge that option is binding as other teams have approached him.
"Martin is very disappointed," Story said on Saturday. "Like me, he knows it wasn't intentional. I don't think it will affect anything moving forward."
Story said the car tightly fit the team's construction templates, which apparently are not an exact match with the templates at the track.
"In fairness to NASCAR, they told us, 'Here's the box. Play within the box,'" Story said. "Unfortunately, unknowingly, we got outside that box and they didn't like it.
Story said in a statement released Tuesday that the team will use its 10-day window to decide if it will appeal the penalty.
"We are still trying to understand how the car fit our templates multiple times at the shop, but we respect NASCAR's determination that one of our cars did not exactly conform to their template at the track," Story said.
Confounding the situation more, Truex's car was the only new one of the eight DEI brought to Daytona Beach. The other three qualified in the top 10, including the front row of Paul Menard and Mark Martin.
"The crazy thing is, as good as our cars are running here, how much better could it be?" Story said of the confiscated car."It wasn't as though we needed a bigger advantage. We knew we had fast race cars."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.