NASCAR

Suspension could sidetrack Busch team

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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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NASCAR has been pretty consistent with penalties for substantial rule infractions. But suspending Shane Hmiel's crew chief Todd Lohse for four weeks could be very hard on the 32 car because they're starting to come together as a team. They worked with each other a little bit at the end of last year in the races, and they're starting to get some chemistry. If Lohse has to sit home for a month of races, it could throw off the race team's whole tempo. There's no question that it's an aero violation, and it probably has something to do with the front end of the car. Since they appealed the penalty with NASCAR, Lohse will be able to participate in Sunday's Mexico 200 (3 p.m. ET on FOX). When you appeal, you obviously try to get the penalty reduced or completely dropped, but you also run the risk of getting a bigger penalty. It doesn't happen often, but Lohse's $10,000 fine and four-week suspension could become a $20,000 fine. I don't think that will happen in this case. NASCAR tends to be a little tougher early in the season as they try to make a statement about how they're going to operate this year. They're not going to play around. While they don't mind teams working in the gray area, they're not going to let teams make a mockery of the rulebook. But I'm not a big fan of taking points away from a driver or a team, especially if the penalty does not affect the outcome of an event, whether it's qualifying or the race. I don't agree with taking points away from Dale Earnhardt Jr. for something that happened after the race in Victory Lane.
Speed Mail Larry McReynolds
But NASCAR knows that you can fine these guys until the year ends, and they're not going to run their wells dry. When you take away points — or take away a crew chief — it's hard to even put a dollar value on those penalties. We don't know how valuable 25 points is to a race team right now because we've got a lot of racing to go. If you get docked 25 points, and you miss the top 10 or lose the championship at the end of the year by 20 points, you'll say, "Man, I can't believe it!" Losing a crew chief would be like a football team going to a game without its head coach. You may have good people in place to get the job done, but it's still not like having the captain of the ship there. The working relationship between the driver and crew chief is so important.


FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds has more than 25 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, crew chief and broadcaster. He and his fellow Crew Chief Club members take you behind the wall at www.crewchiefclub.com.

"Larry McReynolds: The Big Picture" is on bookstore shelves now, or you may order your own autographed copy from www.DWStore.com.

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