CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Richard Childress reiterated his frustration in the NASCAR appeals process after an independent panel denied his bid to have Clint Bowyer's penalty overturned.
Three members of the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel voted unanimously Wednesday to uphold the penalty levied against Bowyer after the car he drove to victory Sept. 19 at New Hampshire failed inspection. The penalty dropped him from second to last in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings, and effectively ended his title hopes.
"I am disappointed but not surprised by the decision knowing how the appeal system is structured," Childress said in a statement Thursday. "We proved beyond a reasonable doubt how the car was found to be out of tolerance after the race. Knowing how the system works, I brought a check with me to cover the cost of the appeal hearing and we have already submitted our request to appeal to the chief appellate officer."
Childress paid the fee on the spot and will now go before NASCAR's chief appellate officer, John Middlebrook. The former General Motors executive is NASCAR's version of the Supreme Court, and is expected to hear the appeal next week.
Childress has maintained that Bowyer's car was damaged after the race at New Hampshire by a tow truck that pushed the Chevrolet to Victory Lane because it was out of fuel.
In a hearing that lasted nearly five hours at NASCAR's research and development center, an accident reconstruction expert testified on behalf of the team that the tow truck indeed would have caused damage to the left side of Bowyer's car and it would have factored into the failed inspection.
The panel, however, said the telemetry from the car refuted the claim because it "did not show a sharp impact spike."
The panel also found that Dr. Charles Manning of Accident Reconstruction Analysis in Raleigh actually helped NASCAR's case.
In the decision, signed by John Capels, Lyn St. James, Waddell Wilson and nonvoting member George Silbermann, the panel said Manning argued in the tow truck explanation that the contact bent the left rear frame of the car upward. The panel said Manning testified that the contact would have strictly damaged the left side only because of the matchup between the wrecker pushbar and the angle of the racecar's rear bumper.
"He went on to say that the corresponding right rear measurements should not be affected, in his view, nor the frame member deformed," the panel wrote of Manning's testimony.
NASCAR, however, presented evidence that both the left and right sides of the rear of the car were high and the body was offset on the frame.
That development apparently led the panel to believe the No. 33 team intentionally altered the race car, a claim RCR has dismissed as inconceivable because they had been given advance notice that NASCAR would seize the New Hampshire car for further inspection. The team had been warned a week earlier that its car design was creeping dangerously close to failing inspection.
The panel upheld the 150-point deduction levied against Bowyer, who trails leader Denny Hamlin by 235 points with eight races remaining in the Chase. Also upheld was 150 owner points taken from Childress, a $150,000 fine and six race suspension for crew chief Shane Wilson, and a six-race suspension for car chief Chad Haney.
Wilson and Haney are expected to work this weekend's race at Kansas because their appeals are still ongoing.
Childress vowed not to let his organization be derailed by the penalties. In addition to Bowyer, drivers Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton are also racing for the Sprint Cup title in what's been a season of resurgence for one of NASCAR's top teams.
"We will not let this be a distraction to the primary goal of one of our teams winning the Sprint Cup Series championship," Childress said. "We owe it to our fans and our sponsors to stay focused and bring the championship back to RCR."