The 150-point penalty imposed on Clint Bowyer's team has been upheld by NASCAR's final appealing instance, although fines and suspensions have been reduced following a hearing on Tuesday.
After an unsuccessful first appeal by Richard Childress Racing against penalties imposed to its No. 33 team when its race-winning car from New Hampshire was deemed illegal, John Middlebrook, NASCAR's chief appellate officer, heard the outfit's and NASCAR officials' arguments yesterday.
Middlebrook supported the initial ruling on the team breaking the rules and confirmed the points penalty, although the severity of the punishments imposed to Bowyer's team members was lowered. The fine to his crew chief Shane Wilson was reduced from $150,000 to $100,000, while suspensions handed to him and car chief Chad Haney were also reduced from six to four weeks.
"After reviewing all the data, presentation and factors involved, I am ruling NASCAR was correct in its decision to levy penalties," said Middlebrook, a former GM executive who was hearing his first case in the role. "I believe that the revisions that have been made to the penalties are consistent and fair to both parties involved."
Wilson and Haney will have to serve their suspensions from this weekend's race at Fontana and they will only be able to return next month at Texas. Scott Miller, RCR's director of competition, is expected to fill in Wilson's role as interim crew chief for Bowyer.
Richard Childress accepted the final ruling as Middlebrook's was the final instance they could take the case to, meaning Bowyer's championship hopes are all but over after three of the Chase for the Sprint Cup's 10 races.
"I'm disappointed that the results are not what we wanted, but I feel we received a fair hearing today," Childress said in a statement. "The final step in the appeals process is very good, and I can assure you we would not have taken our case to the chief appellate officer if the first step in the process had been as fair as today's.
"I want to thank all of the fans for their support. I'm proud to be a part of this sport and proud to represent RCR's partners. We all need to put this behind us and get back to racing. There are seven races remaining in the Chase, and Richard Childress Racing will continue our focus on winning the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship."
NASCAR's John Darby said the final ruling proves its procedures to measure cars are accurate and consistent, and guarantee that all drivers and teams compete on equal footing every weekend.
"I believe what has been shown is the way we inspect the cars is consistent, the procedures we apply to the cars are well-known amongst the garage and the way we generally do business from the inspection side of the sport is OK," Darby said.
While Bowyer is out of contention for the title, his RCR teammates Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton currently rank third and ninth in the standings, respectively. RCR is the only Sprint Cup team that has all its driver in the Chase for the championship.