NASCAR & Auto Racing

NASCAR expected to levy penalties against Vickers' team

A failed inspection at Martinsville Speedway could lead to stiff fines and penalties by NASCAR against driver Brian Vickers and Red Bull Racing.

Based on previous rulings this season, Vickers might lose 150 driver points and Dietrich Mateschitz 150 owner points while crew chief Kevin Hamlin could be suspended indefinitely. Such penalties would cost Vickers a career-best finish in the points standings.

Although the highest previous fine this year was $100,000, Red Bull might face a harder hit because NASCAR has escalated its penalties as the season progresses.

NASCAR was expected to release the penalties Wednesday afternoon, spokesman Ramsey Poston said.

Vickers' car was randomly inspected following his 11th-place finish Sunday, and NASCAR discovered the sheet metal on his No. 83 Toyota did not meet the minimum thickness requirements when the car was taken to its R&D Center in Concord.

The car's failed inspection was first reported by

Vickers is tied for his career-best position in the standings at 15th, but the penalty would drop him to 17th with four races to go. Hamlin, who took over the No. 83 at the start of the year, would miss the final month of the season - further jeopardizing the team's bid for a strong close to a successful season.

Vickers and Red Bull struggled in their inaugural season last year. The No. 83 team failed to qualify for 13 races and finished 38th in the final standings.

It meant Vickers had to qualify on speed for the first five races of the year, until he could crack the coveted top-35 mark that guarantees a team a spot in the starting field. He easily made it, and Red Bull has since set its sights on scoring its first Sprint Cup victory.

Vickers will have a hard time reaching Victory Lane without his crew chief, who at minimum will miss the final four races of the year. Typical crew chief suspensions have been six weeks, but it wasn't immediately clear if NASCAR will carry the suspension into the 2009 season.