NASCAR sent a clear message to the Sprint Cup Series garage yesterday, handing down the harshest penalties in the history of the sport to Haas-CNC Racing.
Crewchiefs Robert “Bootie” Barker and Dave Skog, and carchiefs Derick Jennings and Thomas Harris all received six-week suspensions yesterday, after illegal rear wing mounting brackets were discovered on the cars of Scott Riggs and Johnny Sauter last weekend at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Carchiefs have never before been held accountable by NASCAR for rules violations.
In addition, both teams were docked 150 owner and driver points – the most in NASCAR history – and fined $100,000. In addition, NASCAR announced yesterday that it will not return the involved cars to Haas-CNC Racing, the first time the sanctioning body has permanently confiscated an offending racecar.
Last season, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s team received a six-week crewchief suspension and 100-point penalty for an identical violation, proving that NASCAR has not wavered in its vow to escalate penalties for Car Of Tomorrow violations, until conduct improves.
As a result of the penalties, Riggs’ team drops from 26th to 34th in owner points, just five ahead of 36th-place Sam Hornish Jr. The No. 70 team plummets three positions to 43rd in points, and is now 346 points out of the all-important Top-35.
Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby said late yesterday that NASCAR's message was intentionally strong, and will continue to be so in the future.
“The whole point is to make the garage area and all the competitors that compete in our sport understand very clearly,” he said. “We have many, many drawers in the toolbox, full of tools they can work with. But the stuff that is NASCAR’s, let it be NASCAR’s. Do not mess with it.”
“The rules are very clear, the inspection process is very clear. The message that was sent to the teams before the car ever came out (was) that we don’t want these processes messed with. I think that message has been delivered fairly clear. The overwhelming storyline of the new car is that it is black and white. It’s not gray. It’s a rule violation, and we’re going to do what we have to do to not only stop but prevent future rule violations.”
Haas CNC Competition Director Matt Borland declined to comment on whether the team will appeal.
Pocono Off SMI’s List, Dover Next: Pocono Raceway co-owner Dr. Joe Mattioli made it crystal clear again yesterday, telling Sirius Speedway that Pocono Raceway is not for sale, and will not be in this lifetime. Now, Bruton Smith’s attention has turned to Dover International Speedway.
The Speedway Motorsports, Inc., chairman said yesterday that he has spoken with Dover officials, and that the track is "more or less for sale." Dover Motorsports, Inc., President and CEO Dennis McGlynn had little to say on the matter, citing the company's publicly held status for his inability to comment. He did say that moving one of The Monster Mile’s races to another track – as Smith would almost certainly do – makes little sense financially.
"Whether we remain the way we are, or are sold, the markets don't change," said McGlynn. "We're the only track in NASCAR that serves four market; Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New York."
Kerr To JTG: Former Robby Gordon Racing crewchief Frank Kerr will climb atop the pitbox for JTG Racing, serving as crewchief for driver Marcos Ambrose in four Sprint Cup races this year, and to assist with the team’s Nationwide Series operation.
Ambrose is scheduled to run at Indianapolis, Kansas, Atlanta and Homestead this season, and could also make a start or two in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racng Ford.