NASCAR officials came down hard Wednesday on Carl Edwards’ team for a rules violation found after its win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, Robby Gordon’s team got “good news” in the form of the biggest fine in NASCAR history.
If Edwards’ No. 99 Ford team makes this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, it will not get 10 bonus points for the UAW-Dodge 500 victory. That’s the first time such a penalty has been imposed.
Edwards also lost 100 driver points, dropping from first to seventh in the standings. Team owner Jack Roush lost 100 car owner points and crew chief Bob Osborne was suspended for six races and fined $100,000.
That matched a record for the largest fine, but only until later Wednesday when the National Stock Car Racing Commission announced its decision on Gordon’s appeal of penalties for its rules infraction at Daytona. The commission increased the fine against crew chief Frank Kerr from $100,000 to $150,000, but also restored 100 driver and car owner points to Gordon’s team and rescinded Kerr’s six-race suspension.
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“We see this as good news,” said Gordon, whose team goes to 21st in the standings with the reinstated points.
“We are grateful the commissioners rescinded the points penalty and suspension but disappointed by the fine. Still, we see this as a victory for Robby Gordon Motorsports.”
The penalties for Edwards’ team stem from a loose lid on the oil reservoir cover found in postrace inspection.
According to several crew chiefs, having the lid of the oil reservoir cover open allows air flowing under a car to escape into the driver’s compartment and creates at least some additional downforce holding the car to the track.
Roush Fenway Racing president Geoff Smith said in a statement the bolt holding the lid in place failed “as a result of vibration harmonics generated by the car and the race track during the race.
“The bolt was secure enough to survive 225 miles of practice, perhaps up to 399 of 400 miles of the race and the scrutiny of numerous inspections.
"It's a tough business for any race team to have to pledge $100,000, 100 points and a six-race crew chief suspension as an indemnity payment ... against a promise ... that no bolt will ever fail its purpose under race conditions.”
Smith said the team is still deciding whether to appeal, but that Osborne will begin serving his suspension immediately. Chief engineer Chris Andrews will lead Edwards' team Friday and Saturday at Atlanta and general manager Robbie Reiser, formerly the crew chief for Matt Kenseth, will join Andrews on the pit box Sunday.
Several sources within the sport’s hierarchy said NASCAR officials were baffled by the outcome of Gordon’s appeal. The sanctioning body has for the past several years turned to taking points away from drivers and owners because monetary fines did not seem to be deterring rules violations. But after Wednesday’s action, Gordon must pay the biggest fine ever but loses no points.
Gordon’s team switched from Ford to Dodge barely a week before his cars had to be inspected at Daytona. In initial Daytona 500 inspections, his No. 7 Dodge had a front bumper cover that had not been approved for competition by NASCAR. That resulted in the penalties, but Gordon argued that the unapproved part was supplied to his team through a clerical error and Dodge supported that claim.
“The bumper cover constituted an obvious rules infraction and the Appellants did not contest the legality of the part,” the commission’s statement read.
“Regardless of the source of an unapproved part on a racecar, the race team that officially enters the car in a NASCAR race is ultimately accountable for that race car's conformance, or non-conformance, to the rules.
“However, the Commission believes that the facts presented during the hearing represented an extraordinary and unusual set of circumstances. While this does not excuse the infraction, the National Stock Car Racing Commission has decided to reinstate the car owner and driver championship points, lift the suspension, and increase the fine.”