NASCAR has issued penalties and fines to Robby Gordon’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team for rule infractions found during Speedweeks at Daytona. The car was found with an unapproved front bumper cover during opening day inspection on February 8th. Gordon was penalized 100 driver and owner points, and crewchief Frank Kerr has been fined $100,000, suspended for the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events -- until April 9 -- and placed on probation until Dec. 31, 2008.
The penalties struck some observers as excessive, since the violations were – by almost all counts – inadvertent; the result of Dodge Motorsports sending Gordon an incorrect, unapproved nose. However, the NASCAR rulebook makes no mention of intent, and NASCAR has never considered whether or not a team meant to be illegal when applying penalties. In short, it doesn’t matter why the car isn’t right, it only matters if it’s right. And if it’s not right, expect the sanctioning body to drop the hammer.
While Gordon’s penalty is the talk of the town today, Speedweek 2008 was a decidedly calm one in the Sprint Cup Series garage. In contrast to past seasons, when huge piles of confiscated parts accumulated throughout the week, Gordon’s offending bumper cover was the only part that failed to pass muster with NASCAR inspectors. No crewchiefs were escorted from the property, no cars impounded, and Kerr will be the only man not welcome on the property this weekend in California.
Things definitely did not go as well in the Nationwide and Craftsman Truck garages.
On the Nationwide side, a whopping seven teams were penalized for various violations. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s No. 5 car was found with rear spoiler ends that failed to meet the specified height, along with a rear spoiler that had been altered after inspection to improve its aerodynamics. Earnhardt and car owner Rick Hendrick were each penalized 50 points, which is essentially a non-penalty, since they will contest a very small number of races this season. Crewchief Chad Walter took it on the chin, though, receiving a $25,000 fine, a suspension for the next six races (until April 9th) and probation until Dec. 31st.
Five other Nationwide cars were found with unsecured oil reservoir tank covers during post-qualifying inspection. Each of their driver/owner combinations -- Kertus Davis/Johnny Davis for the #0; Johnny Sauter/James Finch for the #1; David Gilliland/Carl Haas for the #14; David Stremme/Ed Rensi for the #64; and Cale Gale/ DeLana Harvick for the #77 -- were docked 25 driver/owner points each. Crewchiefs Gene Allnutt (# 0); Newt Moore (#1); Bob Edwards (#14); Steve Darne (#64); and Charlie Wilson (#77) have each been fined $15,000, suspended for the next six events and placed on probation until Dec. 31st. Jerry Baxter, crewchief for David Reutimann’s Michel Waltrip Racing Toyota, received a $5,000 fine and probation until July 9th for carburetor venturis that exceeded the specified size.
On the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks Series, penalties and fines were assessed to the #30 of Todd Bodine, which was found with a device designed to reduce the bed panel height at the points of inspection during pre-qualifying inspection on Feb. 14. As a result, Bodine lost 25 driver points, with owner Stephen Germain penalized 25 owner points. Crewchief Mike Hillman Jr. was fined $10,000 and suspended for the next four races – through April 30th -- and placed on probation until Dec. 31st. The #33 of Ron Hornaday Jr. was found to have spoiler braces that exceeded the maximum one-inch width, earning a $5,000 fine for crewchief Rick Ren.