It really came as no surprise that NASCAR’s chief appellate officer, John Middlebrook, turned down Richard Childress Racing and Clint Bowyer‘s appeals against the penalties handed down to them after the winning #33 car at Dover was found to be out of specification.
“I am ruling NASCAR was correct in its decision to levy penalties. I believe that the revisions that have been made are consistent and fair to both parties involved,” said Middlebrook in a statement. The revisions referred to were a reduction in the suspensions of crew chief Shane Wilson and car chief Chad Haney from six weeks to four and the fine of Wilson from $150,000 to $100,000. However the 150 point penalties to Clint Bowyer in the Driver’s Championship and Richard Childress in the Owner’s Championship were not reduced effectively ending Bowyer’s chance of winning this year’s title.
After he left the hearing Childress said he thought the process with Middlebrook, handling his first case in this $1 per year post, was fair and he still believed that when the finding was announced.
“I’m disappointed that the results are not what we wanted, but I feel we received a fair hearing,” he said. “The final step in the appeals process is very good and I can assure you we would not have taken our case to the chief appellate officer if the first step in the process had been as fair.” Childress was specifically referring here to the fact that both sides were in the room with Middlebrook at the same time and able to exchange views and opinions, something not permissible in the original appeal hearing where both sides’ arguments were heard independently. Maybe there is a message there for NASCAR to absorb.
NASCAR Sprint Cup series director, John Darby, was asked after the hearing if he was happy with the outcome. “You are never happy. Nobody wins, nobody loses here,” he said. “What I look at is a challenge to NASCAR’s inspection procedures and the consistency and I believe what has been shown is … the way we generally do business from the inspection side of the sport is OK.”
Although Childress had said at the original appeal that the rules infraction in question was a matter of just 0.060″, which seemed a tiny amount to justify wrecking a driver’s chances of winning a championship, Darby was adamant that he would not discuss the exact nature or size of the discrepancy saying, “It’s not our job to necessarily inform everyone in the garage that’s competing against them what they did and where they did it. It is our responsibility to make sure all the cars meet the specifications.”
Childress said he was now ready to move on and asked NASCAR fans to put the whole saga behind them and get behind RCR for the remainder of the season. Kevin Harvick is currently in third place in the standings just 30 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, whilst Jeff Burton is back in ninth place, 101 points behind and not ruled out of contention just yet.
Clint Bowyer, after the 150 point penalty and two poor subsequent races, is now 252 points behind Johnson and has conceded his championship hopes are over for this year so has vowed to be a team player doing whatever he can to help one of his stablemates lift the crown.
The next race in the Sprint Cup championship is this Sunday at the Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, California.