Volkswagen isn’t the only entity caught with stuff on their cars that violates the rules this week. The number 15 Michael Waltrip Racing car of Chase for the Sprint Cup participant Clint Bowyer was found with improperly installed parts found during the opening day inspection last week at Chicagoland Speedway.
The P4 in severity (in NASCAR’s P1 through P6 levels of penalties, with P6 being the most severe) penalty was incurred for violation of a host of rules, most of which related to improperly installed suspension components. NBCSN quoted the most specific rules infractions (beyond the standard boilerplate “actions detrimental to stock car racing” that every violation seems to get) as such:
Section 20.14.c – All suspension mounts and mounting hardware must not allow movement or realignment of any suspension and/or drivetrain component beyond normal rotation or suspension and/or drivetrain travel.
Section 184.108.40.206.k – Beveled washers and/or other components that allow movement under load will not be permitted on the track bar helm joins or rod end and/or track bar mounting bolts.
Section 220.127.116.11.1.d – Approved parts that are not properly installed or are made adjustable when not normally intended to be.
Section 18.104.22.168.1.f – Components, devices, systems, configurations, installations, etc., which serve to circumvent NASCAR templates, gauges, measuring devices, whether intended or not.
While the team has appealed the penalty to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel, if they lose that appeal, Bowyer’s shot at the Sprint Cup takes a huge hit. Bowyer was docked 25 championship points, which would move him into last place of the sixteen drivers competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Kevin Harvick then moves up to 15th place in the Chase standings, despite Harvick’s 42nd place finish at Chicagoland, which was the first race of the Chase.
Car owner Rob Kauffman has been penalized 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Owner points as well.
Additionally, crew chief Billy W. Scott faces a $75,000 fine and a suspension for the next three championship events (plus any non-points events that may be in between those three races). Drivers get used to working with a certain team, so this also makes winning a bit more difficult for Bowyer. Scott will also be on probation for the next six months.
In the meantime, NASCAR has asked the National Motorsports Appeals Panel to expedite their review of this incident. According to NBCSN, that appeal is set to be heard on September 30. The Chase is at stake! We can’t let the slow cogs of justice get in the way of the Chase.
Michael Waltrip Racing will have the opportunity to appeal the decision one last time if they lose next week’s hearing. In the meantime, the points penalties still stand, although Scott’s suspension will be deferred until after the appeals.
Bowyer is one of the longer long-shots for the Sprint Cup this year. Not only did he make it into the Chase without actually winning all season long, but the team itself is closing down after this year. That doesn’t mean that they’re not still trying, though. The Associated Press reports that Bowyer is doing everything he can to end his stint with the team on a high note.
Michael Waltrip Racing has a rocky history that includes two cheating scandals: one involving jet fuel in Michael Waltrip’s engine from 2007, and another in 2013 where it manipulated the results of the last regular season race to get Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase. Many believe that the team has never fully bounced back after the 2013 scandal, where NAPA abandoned them as a sponsor as well.
“MWR has made mistakes in the past, but we feel we are correct in this instance,” the team said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press. “We look forward to the opportunity to present our case to the appeals committee and have no further public comment until the process is completed.”
It’s not impossible for Bowyer to make it into the next round of the Chase (the “Contender 12”). Obviously, if he wins, he advances on to the next round, but he hasn’t been able to pull that off all season and I’m not sure he’s up to it now, even with his crew chief’s probation deferred until the appeal is decided. Otherwise, he needs four other people to do worse than him in the points.
I don’t think there’s any specific rules against using voodoo, however, miniature NASCAR racers that look like pin cushions may fall under that catch-all “actions detrimental” rule in Section 12.1. Bowyer may just be out of luck.
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