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NASCAR levies heavy penalty on Clint Bowyer

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Wednesday, Sep. 22, 2010

Everything Clint Bowyer gained - and more - from his win in Sunday's Chase for the Sprint Cup opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is now lost.

On Wednesday, NASCAR levied a heavy penalty on Bowyer's No. 33 Richard Childress Racing team, one that may well dim its championship chances which just days ago appeared so bright.

The car passed inspection at the track on Sunday but NASCAR discovered a problem with the way the car body was attached to the chassis once it was taken to its research and development center in Concord for a further and more comprehensive inspection.

Bowyer, who moved within 35 points of series leader Denny Hamlin with his first win of the season, has been stripped 150 driver points and his crew chief, Shane Wilson, has been fined $150,000 and suspended from NASCAR for the next six races and placed on probation through the end of the year.

In addition, car chief Chad Haney has been suspended six races and placed on probation through the end of the year. Team owner Richard Childress lost 150 owner points as well.

With the penalty, Bowyer moves from second to 12th in the series standings, 185 behind Hamlin, with nine races left in the Chase. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, said the issue with Bowyer's car actually started a week earlier, following the race at Richmond, Va.

Bowyer's car was randomly selected for further inspection that week and NASCAR officials warned RCR that the car's measurements had come dangerously close to failing.

"We gathered with officials at RCR following that race and re-enforced the fact they had become increasingly close to the measurement that we allow in post-race," Pemberton said.

"The No. 33 car won the race at New Hampshire and was brought back to the R&D center for inspection after the race and that car did not meet specifications."

Although the New Hampshire car did not have the same problem as the Richmond car, it was "in the same area" Pemberton said.

In a statement released Wednesday night, RCR team owner Richard Childress admitted the team was warned after the Richmond race they were "very close" to maximum tolerances allowed and that NASCAR would take the car again after New Hampshire regardless of where they finished.

"It doesn't make any sense at all that we would send a car to New Hampshire that wasn't within NASCAR's tolerances," he said.

So where did the discrepancy come from?

Childress said he was certain the cause of the problem was the result of a tow truck hitting the rear bumper when it pushed Bowyer's car into Victory Lane (he had run out of gas).

Childress said the organization would appeal the penalties.

Before the penalty became official, Bowyer was asked about potential problems with his car while he made an appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on behalf of one of his sponsors.

"Man, I have no idea. I show up on Friday, I bring my helmet, my HANS and I get in the car," he said. "Anything that happens Sunday to Friday, I don't know.

"I know I've been working on my dirt car all weekend, I know we won the race this weekend and it was a lot of fun. We led the most laps and won the race and the guys work hard in the shop to bring fair, fast race cars.

"Aside from that, I don't know what's going on."

While Bowyer's teammates Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton are also competing in the Chase - Harvick is now second in the series standings - Pemberton said NASCAR has not seen a similar problem with the cars from either of those teams.

Pemberton repeated NASCAR's stance that it does not consider taking wins away but said a 150-point penalty with nine races left in the season was "pretty hefty."

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