by Lynne Huntting
The NASCAR Nextel Cup points leading cars of JEFF GORDON/#24 Chevrolet and JIMMIE JOHNSON/#48 Chevrolet were parked Friday morning after NASCAR said their cars failed initial inspection.
RAMSEY POSTEN, NASCAR managing director of corporate communications said: "The front fender bodywork modifications on the cars were outside NASCAR's tolerances between the templates. Neither car would be allowed to practice or qualify Friday. If they pass inspection Friday they would be allowed to race from the rear of the field Sunday."
NASCAR has made it very clear that there would be zero tolerance of Car of Tomorrow transgressions, and there would be severe consequences. Posten said a decision will be made Friday afternoon about the car's activities Saturday. Further action will be discussed and announced Monday or Tuesday.
The recent transgression of DALE EARNHARDT'S #8 rear spoiler resulted in 100 points loss for both Earnhardt and team owner, stepmother TERESA EARNHARDT. Junior's Crew Chief, TONY EURY, Jr., was fined $100,000, suspended for six weeks and put on probation until the end of the year.
DOUG DUCHARDT, Hendrick Motorsports vice president of development said: "The cars fit the templates. We thought we could work on the points between the templates and it became clear to us that we could not." The changes the team made to the Car of Tomorrow for the Cup race at Infineon Raceway this weekend were "evolutionary."
Hendrick Motorsports has four Chevrolets: Gordon's and Johnson's in one shop, and KYLE BUSCH/#5 and CASEY MEAR/#25 in another shop. Busch's and Mears cars passed inspection.
Posten held a media conference to announce the action, and later a conference was held with Gordon, Johnson, Duchardt and the two crew chiefs, STEVE LETARTE for Gordon and CHAD KNAUS for Johnson.
Gordon said: "Nothing's going to ruin my day or my weekend - I'm on cloud nine." He probably wished he knew of the parking before he came out to Infineon so he could spend more time with his wife INGRID and new baby ELLA SOPHIA born Wednesday. Gordon was unsure about sticking around, but he did say he would honour sponsor appearances.
The crew hiefs can supervise the team's work on the cars, and if they pass, the cars could receive their Tech Stickers Saturday morning. Before the second media conference, the cars were indeed going back through inspection. Knaus said he thought his car was through inspection and in the garage waiting for his direction, and that Gordon's car was close behind.