RCR loses Bowyer penalty appeal
An appeals committee denied Richard Childress Racing’s request to have Clint Bowyer’s championship-ending penalty reversed, and the team owner vowed Wednesday to fight the decision to NASCAR’s highest level.
Richard Childress emerged from NASCAR’s research and development center after a nearly 5-hour hearing fighting the 150-point penalty levied against Bowyer after the car he drove to victory Sept. 19 at New Hampshire failed inspection.
"After so many hours of whatever you want to call this, the ruling stood," the team owner said. "I gave them the check and an appeal notice to the commissioner. We’re very disappointed. Nothing unexpected the way this thing works."
Childress said he paid the fee and made a formal request to appeal Wednesday’s decision to NASCAR chief appellate officer John Middlebrook, a former General Motors executive.
The decision from the three-member panel was unanimous. On the panel for the appeal was Lyn St. James, a former driver who made several Indianapolis 500 starts, former crew chief and engine builder Waddell Wilson, and John Capels, a former USAC official and IndyCar team owner.
"All of the facts we used to issue NASCAR’s original penalty were just displayed to the three other people on the panel," Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said. "They asked a lot of questions. They are very informed people and they were definitely on track to collect all the information."
Bowyer and his RCR team were penalized last Wednesday, three days after his win in the opening race for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. The victory snapped an 88-race winless streak and pushed Bowyer from 12th to second in the standings, 35 points behind Denny Hamlin.
The penalty dropped Bowyer to 12th in the standings, and after a disappointing race Sunday at Dover, he trails Hamlin by 235 points with eight Chase races remaining.
Childress also was docked 150 owners points. Crew chief Shane Wilson was fined $150,000 and suspended six races. Chad Haney, the car chief on Bowyer’s No. 33 team, also was suspended for six races.
Wilson and Haney were permitted to work at Dover while waiting for their appeal to be heard, and NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton believes they can travel this weekend to Kansas as the process continues.
RCR has maintained that when Bowyer ran out of gas at the end of the New Hampshire race, a tow truck had to push him to Victory Lane and the contact caused the damage that contributed to a failed inspection.
Childress brought an accident reconstruction specialist to the hearing, but Dr. Charles Manning of Accident Reconstruction Analysis in Raleigh said the three-member appeals panel was not interested in his presentation.
"They paid no attention to anything I said, which says something about what’s going on in there," Manning said.
Childress made his presentation to the appeals committee, then moved to a conference room while NASCAR made its case. During the lengthy delay, he posted a sign on the window of a conference room asking reporters outside to "bring pizza." He later tapped on the window to point out he had updated the sign with "and Budweiser."
Childress could be seen with his feet up on the conference room table, and when a pizza delivery driver showed up with four pies, he opened the door of the R&D Center to let him in.
But the relaxed mood quickly changed when the RCR group was called out of the room. He exited the building minutes later, clearly angry with the decision.
"We have shown proof that the wrecker knocked the back of the car up," Childress said.
Manning, who said he’s been in the accident reconstruction business 45 years, said he recreated a tow truck pushing in the back of a Sprint Cup car to show how it could have damaged the frame.
"We ran into it, we pushed into it with a wrecker that was the same as Loudon," Manning said. "We gave them scientific reports and we testify all the time and they paid no attention."