In one of those stories that just refuses to go away the appeal by Richard Childress Racing against the penalties NASCAR handed out to them for rule violations with the #33 Cheerios Chevrolet was denied yesterday.
The appeals panel comprising of Lyn St. James, a very successful racing driver in her time, Wadell Wilson, a former mechanic and one time crew chief for Benny Parsons, and John Capels, the former USAC chairman, were unanimous in their verdict that the #33 car was 0.060″ outside the tolerance for body attachment to the chassis at one specific location when it was inspected at NASCAR’s R&D centre following its victory in the Sprint Cup race at Loudon on September 19th.
RCR’s appeal centred on the evidence of Charles Manning, owner of Accident Reconstruction Analysis, a company based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He produced evidence which showed that when they recreated a similar car being pushed by a tow truck, as happened to Clint Bowyer‘s car when it ran out of fuel after its win, the mounting was distorted by a similar amount. Manning expressed his frustration that his evidence seemed to have been ignored or overlooked.
Richard Childress announced immediately that he is going to appeal to John Middlebrook, NASCAR's chief appellate officer. Considering the penalties handed out, I guess he has nothing to lose but it is hard to see how the decision will be reversed unless there is an introduction of some new, compelling evidence. RCR have never contested the body was over the tolerance but have focussed instead on establishing how and when it became illegal. Their contention is that the body was distorted on the chassis when it was pushed by the tow truck or, possibly, when it was hit in the rear as a congratulatory tap by another car on the slow-down lap. NASCAR say that doesn’t fit with the database of evidence they have from previous cars that have been examined after crash damage.
There is clear video evidence of the tow truck starting to push the #33 and it has to be said that it seems to be a gentle nudge. RCR say it must have been when the car started to turn left on to the pit lane, thus causing the damage to the left rear quarter of the car, but, again, the video evidence neither proves nor disproves this.
It has not been established whether there would have been any performance gain by the body being this tiny amount out of line but the point is simply that it was out of tolerance.
There would be no more enjoyable outcome than to see Clint Bowyer have the 150 point penalty rescinded, thus putting him back in with a chance in The Chase. His current position 235 points behind Denny Hamlin, the point leader means his chances of taking the title are minimal at best. It would also be good to see Richard Childress, whose integrity has never previously been questioned, exonerated and given back his 150 point penalty. But the reality is that without any fresh evidence and having admitted the car was outside the permitted tolerance it is hard to see the next stage of the appeal process being any more successful and the only positive outcome is that it will bring this whole sorry saga to an end and everyone can get back to what really matters – The Chase and this year’s title.