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CUP: A ‘New’ Chase Follows RCR Penalties

All was quiet on the Chase for the Sprint Cup front Thursday on travel day.

Teams, drivers and officials were headed to Delaware for Friday-through-Sunday competition at Dover International Speedway, site of Sunday’s AAA 400, the second race in the Chase.

About a dozen NASCAR drivers were scheduled to visit wounded soldiers Thursday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Not among them was Clint Bowyer, whose mind was perhaps racing with other matters Thursday, a day after NASCAR hammered his team with penalties of 150 points and $150,000, plus crew and car chief suspensions, because his car did not meet NASCAR specifications.

Team owner Richard Childress announced late Wednesday his intention to appeal the penalties, based on his conclusion that the irregularities in the No. 33 car were caused by incidental damage that occurred when a wrecker pushed the car after Bowyer’s New Hampshire Motor Speedway win or when competitors tapped the car in post-race salutes to Bowyer.

NASCAR officials didn’t appear to be too impressed with that explanation, and most observers rate it unlikely that the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel will modify the penalties. The panel rarely changes NASCAR penalties.

“We don’t feel that the incidental contact from a push from a wrecker helped push this car out of tolerance at all,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition.

There was no news out of Richard Childress Racing Thursday, and the team was not expected to address the Bowyer issue again publicly until Friday at Dover. As of mid-afternoon Thursday, RCR had not filed an appeal.

The team has not announced which RCR employees will replace Bowyer’s crew chief, Shane Wilson, and his car chief, Chad Haney, during their six-week suspensions, although it is likely that Scott Miller, RCR’s director of competition and also a former crew chief, will play a key role.

If the team appeals the penalties, Wilson and Haney can continue to participate with the team while the appeals process unfolds.

Appeals of penalties are considered by a three-member appeals panel chosen by appellate administrator George Silvermann. The panel members are chosen from a pool of candidates, and all have ties to the stock car racing industry and typically are current or former track operators or garage-area veterans.

Meanwhile, the Thursday version of the Sprint Cup standings looks significantly different from Monday’s. Kevin Harvick is second, not third. Kyle Busch is third, not fourth. Jeff Gordon is fourth, not fifth. These changes, of course, are a result of Bowyer falling from second to 12th after NASCAR’s 150-point penalty.

It should be remembered, however, that the other drivers’ standings in relation to point leader Denny Hamlin have not changed. Harvick, for instance, remains 45 points behind Hamlin although he moved up a spot in the standings order.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.