|Ryan Newman and Luke Lambert|
NASCAR served fair warning recently that tampering with race tires would result in a severe penalty.
Today, the hammer fell.
The No. 31 Richard Childress Racing/Caterpillar Chevrolet team was penalized today in the aftermath of a post-race tire audit conducted by NASCAR following the March 22 race at Auto Club Speedway.
The P5-level infraction violated the Sections 12.1 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rule book: Actions detrimental to stock car racing and 20.16.A: Any device, modification, or procedure to the tire or wheel, including the valve stem hardware, that is used to release pressure, beyond normal pressure adjustments, from the tire and/or inner shield, will not be permitted.
Section 126.96.36.199.1 of the NASCAR rule book specifically lists an example of a P5 Penalty Violation as including (but not limited to) “Effecting, modifying and/or altering the standard tires in any way, other than through authorized means such as tire pressure adjustments within the recommended range, permitted tire cooling when mounted on the race vehicle; or heat-cycling on the race vehicle on the race track earlier in the event.”
As a result of these violations, crew chief Luke Lambert has been fined a total of $125,000 ($75,000 plus an additional $50,000 for a violation discovered in post-race inspection), suspended from the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship races and any non-championship races or special events that occur during that time period, and been placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31. The team’s tire technician, James Bender, and team engineer Philip Surgen have been suspended for an identical period and been placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31.
Driver Ryan Newman and car owner Richard Childress each have been penalized with the loss of 75 championship driver and championship car owner points (50 points and an additional 25 for a violation discovered in post-race inspection).
“NASCAR takes very seriously its responsibility to govern and regulate the rules of the sport in order to ensure competitive balance,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer. “We’ve been very clear that any modifications to race vehicle tires is an unacceptable practice and will not be tolerated.”
Altering of tires, engines and fuel have long been considered part of NASCAR’s “Holy Trinity;” areas of the race car that are absolutely not to be altered in any way.
Torrey Galida, President of Richard Childress Racing, commented on the sanctions today, saying, “We understand the seriousness of the penalty. In fact, RCR has been one of the most outspoken opponents against 'tire bleeding' since the rumors began to surface last season. Once NASCAR provides us with the specific details of the infraction we will conduct a further internal investigation, and evaluate our options for an appeal."