NASCAR announced penalties on Wednesday afternoon to two Sprint Cup Series teams stemming from last weekend's Chase for the Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland Speedway. And one of them has suffered a severe setback to its championship hopes as a result.
The No. 15 team of Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer has been penalized for an infraction that occurred during opening-day inspection on Sept. 18. This is a P4 level penalty on NASCAR's six-tier penalty deterrence system. As a result of the infraction, crew chief Billy Scott has been fined $75,000, suspended for the next three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship events and placed on NASCAR probation for six months following the issue of suspension.
Bowyer, one of 16 drivers in the Chase, has been stripped of 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Driver points, while team owner Rob Kauffman has been penalized 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Owner points. NASCAR has requested to the Appeals Administrator of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel that the appeals process described in the rule book be expedited.
With the penalty, Bowyer slides one position to last place among the 16 title contenders, moving Kevin Harvick up a spot.
"Michael Waltrip Racing respectfully disagrees with today's penalties and plans to immediately appeal," the team said in a statement. "MWR has made mistakes in the past, but we feel we are correct in this instance. We look forward to the opportunity to present our case to the appeals committee and have no further public comment until the process is completed."
In addition to the Bowyer/MWR penalty, NASCAR announced that the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team of Danica Patrick has been penalized for an infraction that occurred during pre-qualifying inspection at Chicagoland. This is a P2 level penalty. NASCAR said the right side quarter panel behind the rear wheel/tire was modified during pre-qualifying inspection. Patrick's crew chief, Daniel Knost, has been placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31, 2015, while car chief Pete White has been placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31, 2015.
Over in the XFINITY Series, NASCAR has penalized the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team of driver Daniel Suarez for an infraction that occurred during pre-race inspection at Chicagoland on Sept. 19. This is a P2 level penalty. The right side vertical extension panel (side skirt) was modified after pre-race inspection. As a result, NASCAR has placed crew chief Eric Phillips on probation through Dec. 31, 2015, while crew member John Egbert Jr. has been placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31, 2015.
The No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing car of Chicagoland XFINITY Series winner Kyle Busch failed heights during post-race inspection on Sept. 19, NASCAR also announced. This is a P2 level penalty, resulting in crew chief Christopher Gayle being fined $12,500 and placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31, 2015. Car owner J.D. Gibbs has been penalized 10 series championship owner points for the infraction.