DOVER, Del. – Clint Bowyer and RCR have a date for their "tow truck" defense.
The NASCAR appeals committee has set Sept. 29 for a hearing on Bowyer's illegal car. His car failed a follow-up inspection and he was penalized 150 points after winning last weekend's first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. NASCAR also fined crew chief Shane Wilson $150,000, and suspended him for the next six Sprint Cup races. Car chief Chad Haney was also suspended six races, and team owner Richard Childress was docked 150 owner points.
Bowyer gave a defiant defense of his win Friday at New Hampshire and said he wouldn't cheat to win. Childress also said his team did nothing wrong.
Both blamed the push from a tow truck for putting the body of the car out of tolerance.
"A fair appeal is three men that do understand the sport and understand things that could happen that could change this out of our environment," Childress said.
Wilson is working this weekend at Dover International Speedway because the case is being appealed. The fine does not have to be paid until after the hearing. The points, though, are gone and Bowyer fell from second to 12th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings. Unless he wins his appeal, Bowyer's title hopes have all but vanished.
RCR's chances of winning don't look good based on the numbers. There have been 132 appeals since 1999 — 88 were upheld, 42 were reduced or overturned and two actually had their penalties increased, according to NASCAR.
"We've done a good job of inspecting, the teams have done a good job of building their cars," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said. "There's for sure not a good time for a penalty of this magnitude."
NASCAR never considered stripping Bowyer of the victory.
"It's something that we've never done," Pemberton said. "We don't really contemplate it that heavily. It kind of goes back to our founders in NASCAR. They have felt, and they have delivered the message to us, that no matter what happens on a penalty or anything like that, when you leave on Sunday, the fans need to know who won the race."
Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon doesn't necessarily agree with NASCAR's stance.
"In my opinion, take points away, might as well take the win away," he said. "It seems like to me there at last should be an asterisk next to the win."
Bowyer's car passed an initial inspection at New Hampshire on Sunday, but was taken by NASCAR back to its North Carolina research and development center for a more thorough exam. It was there that NASCAR found the rear end of the car had been manipulated.
Pemberton said the "next logical step" is to eventually increase the amount in fines and points to send a harsher message to teams that push the limits and break the rules.
He also said there were no plans to take all 12 Chase cars back to the R&D center after each race.
"The randomness is what keeps everybody in check," Pemberton said.