Where is the justice?
Clint Bowyer incurs a 2010 penalty for an offset car and watches his title hopes essentially dissolve.
Jimmie Johnson has a 2009 car with a similar issue -- and escapes with a warning and the championship.
Again, where is the justice?
NASCAR docked Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing team 150 driver and owner points for 'actions detrimental to stock car racing' (section 12-1) and 'determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules' (section 20-3), specifically, 'car body location specifications in reference to the certified chassis did not meet approved specifications of the 2010 rule book following their win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Shane Wilson, crew chief of the team, was fined $150,000, suspended for the next six Sprint Cup races and placed on probation until Dec. 31. Wilson's car chief, Chad Haney, did not feel the pain in his pocketbook but will also sit out until Nov. 3 and will be on probation through the end of the year.
According to Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby, the penalty stemmed from the offset of the car not meeting NASCAR tolerances.
"It was the measurements that we take -- and we take a lot of them in postrace -- but specifically it revolves around how the body of the car is located on the frame in all three coordinates, x, y and z, which is fore and aft, left and right, up and down," Darby said.
"Respectfully, our teams do have the ability to proceed with an appeal. So to (really) get into some of the actual specific measurements of the car and the car numbers would not be fair either to the RCR group or NASCAR."
Does anyone else find the irony in Darby using the word "fair"?
Last week at New Hampshire, the No. 2 Penske Racing team monkeyed around with a set of borrowed tires from the No. 64 team so crew chief Steve Addington could qualify using scuffed tires on the left and slicks on the right side of the car. Addington's penalty? Loss of a set of tires and 15 minutes of practice time on Saturday morning.
What happened to the age-old rule that teams are not allowed to mess with tires, engines or fuel? In the past, a tire infraction would have meant a loss of points and likely a crew chief's first born. For all intents and purposes, Kurt Busch received a free pass at New Hampshire.
Where was NASCAR when Cup champ Jimmie Johnson's winning car from the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup race at Dover was taken to the technical center along with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and runner-up Mark Martin. Similar to Bowyer's cars, there was a question in regard to the offset on the tail end, which helps the rear of the car stick to the ground instead of spinning out. The No. 5 Chevrolet barely made the tolerance. That wasn't the case with the No. 48's offset which, according to NASCAR mind you, was .006 over the tolerance -- about two sheets of paper. But it was over.
At the time of the No. 48 car's issues, Darby explained, "The numbers that we publish in the rule book in most cases are the nominal or 'Here's-what-you-must-be' numbers. The claw grid that we use, the height sticks -- most of our checking devices -- have that nominal number indicated, as well as a color. Take our height stick, for example. There's where the numbers supposed to be, then a green area, a yellow area and a red area.
"The green is your working area that's published in the rule book. Yellow is what we're going to give you in good faith. When you hit red, you've gone too far. If you want to relate it to that type of a situation, Hendrick's cars were at the line that defines the difference between yellow and red."
Still, Jimmie Johnson sailed his way to a fourth Cup title without repercussion. With a rap sheet like Chad Knaus', having his car taken to NASCAR's Research and Development Center for the balance of the Chase was a get-out-of-jail-free card compared to the spanking levied on Shane Wilson.
NASCAR was adamant that the rules were black and white after the new car was introduced. Knaus and Jeff Gordon crew chief Steve Letarte experienced the zero-tolerance mantra at Sonoma in 2007. However, when Johnson was busted two races into last year's Chase, we learned of a new green, yellow and red system of kinder, gentler new-model car rules.
It seems there's a double standard in place for certain teams and again, Richard Childress Racing received the brunt of NASCAR's favoritism.
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said the difference between the Hendrick Motorsports post-inspection process and RCR's was "Hendrick immediately fixed any errors that they had in what could be -- moving forward could become a problem, and that's the difference between that and today. These problems weren't -- these issues weren't addressed."
NASCAR noticed something on Bowyer's Richmond car (chassis 303, run Charlotte, June N.H. and August Bristol) and took it to the R&D center last week, took issue with the innovation and discussed it with team principals. While the New Hampshire car was a completely different and brand new chassis (320), the infraction, according to Pemberton, "was in the same area" of body measurements.
Although Darby believes that team's level of comfort has encouraged them to push the limits, team owner Richard Childress is not naïve enough to take a warning for granted.
"NASCAR informed us after the Richmond race that we were very close to their maximum tolerances," Childress said in a statement released by RCR. "They also told us they were going to take our New Hampshire car to the NASCAR technical center after that race. It doesn't make any sense at all that we would send a car to New Hampshire that wasn't within NASCAR's tolerances. I am confident we fixed the area of concern and the New Hampshire car left the race shop well within the tolerances required by NASCAR.
"We feel certain that the cause of the car being out of tolerance by sixty thousandths of an inch, less than 1/16 of an inch, happened as a result of the wrecker hitting the rear bumper when it pushed the car into winner's circle. The rear bumper was also hit on the cool-down lap by other drivers congratulating Clint on his victory. That's the only logical way that the left rear of the car was found to be high at the tech center. We will appeal NASCAR's ruling and take it all the way to the NASCAR commissioner for a final ruling, if need be."
Certainly. Clint Bowyer, who just watched any shot he had of winning the Chase evaporate into the ether, will feel the pain. After dramatically clinching the final position in the Chase and coming out with a decisive win at New Hampshire, Bowyer finds himself mired in 12th-place with a 185-point deficit.
But the biggest losers, once again, are the NASCAR fans. Bowyer is the type of driver the average Joe and Jane can embrace. And usually with Bowyer, he'd return the favor. His humility is refreshing among professional athletes. He's the guy in the cowboy boots and blue jeans sitting at the bar that naturally attracts patrons. Not surprisingly, he's been a sponsor favorite in a time when former champions struggle for support.
My favorite Bowyer saying, "I may have lost a race but I never lost a party."
Certainly, Bowyer suffered a hefty setback -- but no doubt there will be more celebrations to come.