Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Updated: September 24, 12:19 PM ET
Clint Bowyer penalized 150 points
By David Newton
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Clint Bowyer's run at the Sprint Cup championship took a serious hit Wednesday when NASCAR penalized him 150 points because the car that won the Chase opener at New Hampshire didn't meet specifications.
Crew chief Shane Wilson was suspended for six weeks and fined $150,000. Richard Childress was docked 150 owner points.
Bowyer had moved from 12th to second in points with the victory, which ended an 88-race losing streak. The penalty knocked him back to 12th -- from 35 points behind leader Denny Hamlin to 185.
Asked what such a penalty would mean for his championship chances during a fan and sponsor appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Bowyer said, "Got to win a couple of more races.''
During a question and answer session with fans, Bowyer said, "It would be a shame if something happens. It's part of the sport.''
Bowyer was permitted to keep Sunday's victory at New Hampshire. NASCAR typically does not strip wins, and an official said the Richard Childress Racing team probably was punished enough.
"We don't consider taking away the win," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said. "If you ask some, they would consider a 150-point penalty with only nine races to go in the Chase a pretty hefty penalty."
Bowyer's team and Richard Childress Racing were warned Sept. 14 after the car that finished sixth at Richmond to clinch a spot in the Chase barely passed inspection.
The New Hampshire car passed postrace inspection at the track, but upon further review at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, issues were discovered with the back end tolerances.
"They were in the box [after the Richmond race] but getting close to some of the tolerances, and we asked them to come in to see if they aren't getting off on one of their build sheets," Pemberton said.
Childress said he believed the car was damaged just out of tolerance when it was pushed into the winner's circle or during the cool-down lap after the race.
"[NASCAR] told us they were going to take our New Hampshire car to the NASCAR technical center after that race. It doesn't make any sense at all that we would send a car to New Hampshire that wasn't within NASCAR's tolerances," Childress said in a statement. "I am confident we fixed the area of concern and the New Hampshire car left the race shop well within the tolerances required by NASCAR."
Childress said he plans to appeal the penalties.
Bowyer is not the first Chase driver to be docked points during the championship. In September 2007, Carl Edwards was docked 25 points and his crew chief was fined $25,000 for violations after an inspection.
NASCAR has made it clear since introducing the Car of Tomorrow in 2007 that violating tolerances or using unapproved parts will result in severe penalties.
Officials backed that up from the outset by docking Dale Earnhardt Jr. 100 points and suspending crew chief Tony Eury Jr. for six weeks after illegal brackets used to mount the rear wing were discovered at Darlington in 2007.
Later that year, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were fined 100 points each after NASCAR found what it considered to be modifications to the fenders at Infineon Raceway. Crew chiefs Chad Knaus and Steve Letarte were suspended six weeks and fined $100,000 each.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. The Assoicated Press contributed to this report.