NASCAR has handed down heavy points penalties, fines, suspensions and probations to the #27 Sprint Cup team operated by Richard Childress Racing, after finding alterations to the basic Car of Tomorrow body framework.
The modifications were discovered this week during post-race inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center, following last Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway.
Alterations to the basic CoT bodywork are strictly against NASCAR's rules, and the sanctioning body has taken a very harsh view of what they found in their examination of the #27 car driven by Paul Menard.
Crew chief Slugger Labbe has been handed a $100,000 fine and suspended from NASCAR competition until October 3 and on probation after that through to the end of the year. The car chief Craig Smokstad and crew member Grant Hutchens also receive the same suspension and probation penalties, but escape financial sanction.
Paul Menard will lose a hefty 25pts from his Sprint Cup championship standings, making it all but impossible for him to pull off a late entry into the Chase in the three races remaining before the cut-off.
"These penalties are awfully stiff, twenty-five points in today's points system is a lot," said SPEED TV analyst Larry McReynolds, a former NASCAR crew chief. "We're in the sixth year of NASCAR certifying these chassis and I don't think this ever has happened before because everyone knows how sacred this ground truly is."
The #27 also loses 25pts in the car owner standings for Richard Childress. In the old points system, that would have been the equivalent of nearer a 100pt deduction for both driver and car owner.
It's not entirely clear whether the team will exercise its right of appeal over the penalties and their severity. Initial reports indicated that Childress was planning to lodge an appeal, but subsequent reports said that the team was still weighing up their options before deciding.
The official announcement from NASCAR stated that the #27 team was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4K (race equipment that has been previously certified or previously approved by NASCAR for use in an event, pursuant to sub-section 8-12, has been altered, modified, repaired or changed in any manner. Intentionally modifying frame rails for the purpose of deceiving NASCAR's inspection gauges) of the 2012 NASCAR Rule Book.
On Tuesday, it was also announced that Dave Rogers, crew chief of the #18 Sprint Cup team, had been fined $25,000 and put on NASCAR probation through to October 3 after an improperly attached weight was found on Kyle Busch's car at Michigan. Car chief Wesley Sherrill was also handed a probation for the same period. There were no points deductions from either the driver or car owner, however.
In that instance, NASCAR's official announcement stated that the #18 car was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20-2.3A (improperly attached weight) of the 2012 NASCAR rule book. The infraction occurred during practice on August 18.