Chase-clinching car nearly flunked
NASCAR warned Richard Childress Racing that Clint Bowyer's car came close to failing inspection after his Chase-clinching drive at Richmond.
NASCAR scheduled a Tuesday meeting with RCR officials to go over the No. 33 Chevrolet and determine if the team had not made a mistake in its own calculations.
''They were in the box, but getting close to some of the tolerances and we asked them to come in to see if they aren't getting off on one of their build sheets,'' NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton told The Associated Press.
''We have had their cars in quite a bit, and they were always spot-on. This one just seemed to be different, and we felt we owed it to them to make sure they just aren't off in one area.''
Bowyer's car was chosen by NASCAR for random inspection following his sixth-place finish at the Sept. 11 race. The run gave him the 12th and final spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, which began Sunday in New Hampshire.
Bowyer won the opener to vault from 12th in the standings to second, and he's in the thick of the championship hunt.
But as his team celebrated the victory, rival teams began to gossip about a potential problem with Bowyer's car from the week before. NASCAR on Tuesday confirmed that once the car got back to its North Carolina research and development center, it was discovered that the back end of the Chevrolet was very close to the mandated tolerance levels.
NASCAR still has the car in its possession, and won't give it back to RCR until the team meets with the sanctioning body.
But Pemberton shot down speculation that RCR was given a pass because NASCAR didn't want to spoil the build up to the Chase opener.
''If there was something more to this, we would move the car under the dark of night and hide it in a crypt somewhere where nobody can see it,'' he said. ''We're going to get criticized for everything we do anyway. People are through here all the time (R&D Center) and can see what's here. There are no shenanigans.''
Even if Bowyer's car had failed inspection, it wouldn't have changed the Chase field.
The penalty for failed inspections runs anywhere from 50-to-100 points, and Bowyer had a 142-point cushion over Ryan Newman at the end of the Richmond race.
Pemberton also said Bowyer's situation was not similar to last year, when NASCAR warned Hendrick Motorsports about the cars Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson drove to wins in the first two Chase races.
In those instances, Sprint Cup Series director John Darby indicated the Hendrick teams were intentionally creeping close to the limits and left themselves ''no room to breathe.''
''We've not seen anything like this from (RCR) this year, and sometimes you can get something off in a particular shop,'' Pemberton said. ''We are trying to be proactive and we want to compare their numbers to ours.''