Clint Bowyer, his Sprint Cup championship hopes virtually wiped out by a severe NASCAR penalty this week, said Friday he’s angry about the situation, strongly defended his team and criticized NASCAR’s inspection process.
“I’m angry about the whole thing,” Bowyer told a Friday press conference at Dover International Speedway. “This tarnished my win. I’m very angry about it.”
Bowyer held up a quarter and said his Chevrolet was less than a quarter’s thickness out of line with NASCAR specifications – after being bumped by what he called a “two-ton wrecker” as he ran out of gas after winning Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“I don’t think the penalty fits the crime,” Bowyer said. “It’s less than the thickness of a quarter.”
Bowyer said NASCAR “needed to set an example” after rumors began swirling in the NASCAR community Monday about possible problems with the No. 33 car.
“In my opinion, I truly believe these rumors forced their hand in making a decision,” he said.
NASCAR announced the penalties Wednesday. The most significant element of the penalties was a 150-point deduction in Bowyer’s point total, dropping him from second in Chase points to 12th and virtually eliminating him from contention for the championship. The team also was fined $150,000, and crew chief Shane Wilson and car chief Chad Haney were suspended for six races.
After Bowyer’s New Hampshire win, the car was taken to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. It passed pre- and post-race inspection at the track but failed under more strenuous testing at the R and D center, a process that disturbed Bowyer.
“It’s a completely different vehicle,” he said. “All these things are bolted on. It can interrupt the way the car is measured [as pieces are removed]. How can it be kept in the same [measurement] box? I think there are a lot of cars close to being out of the box.
“The left rear quarter panel of the car was split, kinked. It was hit hard enough to split that.”
Team owner Richard Childress has said he intends to appeal the penalties based on the possible damage to the car caused by the wrecker’s push and by other drivers tapping the rear of the car to “congratulate” Bowyer after the win.
“You always want to win races, and I’m still proud of that win,” Bowyer said. “I don’t believe we did anything wrong. I want my fans to know that. There’s a lot of integrity that goes into this sport, and I’m damn proud of this sport. I wouldn’t cheat to win a race in this sport.”
After being warned by NASCAR that the team’s Richmond car was very close to the edge of NASCAR tolerances, Bowyer said the RCR team made “triple sure” the Loudon car was OK because they knew officials would check it closely.
“Who in their right mind wouldn’t have made triple sure that that car was right?” he said.
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.