BRISTOL, Tenn. – Richard Childress Racing appealed NASCAR's penalties against Ryan Newman's team to the highest level on Friday, and crew chief Luke Lambert was eligible to return to work at Bristol Motor Speedway.
RCR made the move a day after losing its bid to overturn penalties levied against Newman's team for allegedly manipulating tires at a race last month at California. Although a three-person appeals panel reduced some of the sanctions, the six-week suspensions for crew chief Luke Lambert and two other team members were upheld.
RCR sent Todd Parrott to Bristol on Friday as interim crew chief for Newman, but the decision to take the case to Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss means Lambert and the two suspended crew members can work this weekend.
There was no immediate word from RCR if Lambert will direct Newman on Sunday, or if engineer Philip Surgen and tire specialist James Bender would return to work.
Moss has not set a date to hear the case and has deferred the suspensions. Lambert missed practice and qualifying Friday.
RCR's decision to appeal could backfire: Moss, a former Gulfstream executive, could reinstate the original penalties.
The appeals panel reduced the points penalty to Newman and the team from 75 to 50 points and Lambert's fine from $125,000 to $75,000.
Unsure how the appeal process would go, RCR had the foresight to send an interim crew chief to a test session this week with Newman. As the team debated on whether it wanted to appeal further, it sent Parrott to Bristol on Friday in Lambert's place.
Parrott, who is RCR's director of competition for the second-tier Xfinity Series, gathered the crew in the team truck for a pep talk in Kentucky in case the Thursday appeal was unsuccessful.
"I sat them down up in the lounge of the truck and I said, 'I'm not sure what is going to happen, but if it does happen and I do get the call to go to Bristol and work with you guys, is there anything you need from me? What do you want? What do you like?'" Parrott said Friday at Bristol.
Parrott guided Dale Jarrett to the 1999 title and has 31 Cup wins on his resume.
There had been speculation throughout the garage that teams were poking tiny holes in their tires in a move called "bleeding tires" and NASCAR seized tires after races at Phoenix and California. Of the four teams who had tires confiscated after California, only Newman's tires came back as having been manipulated. Kevin Harvick' and Joey Logano's tires were taken at Phoenix and both passed an inspection.
RCR has maintained its innocence and Childress was grateful that the appeal committee reduced the points deducted from driver and owner from 75 to 50, and cut Lambert's fine from $125,000 to $75,000.
Newman has so far not been made available to comment on the penalties.
Parrott, who will split his time between the Cup and Xfinity garages this weekend, said he came to Bristol to win in both series. Ty Dillon is currently leading the Xfinity Series points for RCR and Parrott said he will not "lose sight of that" while guiding Newman.
"Ryan is an awesome talent in this sport and one heck of a race car driver," he said. "I'm not out to get Luke Lambert's job or any of these guys. I'm just here to fill in and do the job they have asked me to do."