Coke Zero 400 winner Tony Stewart and his Stewart/Haas Racing team have been penalised for a technical infringement found after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Stewart initially qualified in second place on Friday, but subsequently had his qualifying time deleted after an open cooling hose into the cockpit was discovered by officials. The hose could have given the car an aerodynamic advantage in a speed trial. As a result, Stewart started the Saturday night race from the back, and still went on to win.
NASCAR followed up the matter on Tuesday by announcing that Stewart would be docked 6pts in the Sprint Cup standings, and the #14 car would similarly lose 6pts in the car owners standings. The penalties do not affect the race result, with Stewart still listed as the race winner. The deductions put him equal on points for fifth place in the championship with Kevin Harvick, but Stewart is ahead by virtue of having three wins in 2012 - including Daytona.
More significantly, crew chief Steve Addington was fined $25,000 and put on probation through to August 22.
"While we respect and accept NASCAR's decision, we want to be clear that there was no malicious intent," said Stewart/Haas Racing competition director Greg Zipadelli after the penalty was announced. "In a rush to replace a cracked rear windshield that happened during tech inspection prior to qualifying, we jostled a cooling hose that was behind the seat. We understand NASCAR's position and will abide by its decision."
While NASCAR probation has sometimes been seen as something of an irrelevance in the past, its importance was highlighted by the case of Austin Dillon's #3 car in the Nationwide Series, which also lost its qualifying time after an open cooling hose was found, and similarly incurred a 6pt penalty in both the driver and owner standings. It's the second week running the Richard Childress Racing car has been docked points, after also being fined at Kentucky for a ride height violation. Together, the two penalties have cost Dillon the lead in the championship over Elliott Sadler.
However, the car's crew chief Danny Stockman was already on NASCAR probation for a previous infringement at Richmond International Raceway in May. As a result, Stockman's penalty was to suspended from NASCAR competition through to July 25 as well as receiving a $10,000 fine.
The #3's car chief Robert Strmiska was also on NASCAR probation, and has also been suspended from competition.
The final penalty handed out for Daytona infringements was to Joey Logano's #18 Nationwide Series car, which failed minimum ride height checks after the race.
The car's crew chief Adam Stevens was fined $10,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until August 22. Car chief Christopher Landis was also put on probation for the same period, and Joe Gibbs Racing lost six car owner points.
As Logano is a Sprint Cup driver, he is not eligible to score Nationwide Series points and therefore does not take a points deduction for the infraction.