7 May 2015
NASCAR: RCR loses final appeal over tyre manipulation
The penalties imposed on Richard Childress Racing for manipulating tyres at Fontana in March have been upheld by NASCAR's final appeal officer
Richard Childress Racing have failed in their attempts to overturn the penalties imposed on them for allegedly tampering with the race tyres on Ryan Newman's car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in March.
The team had won a small victory in the first appeal to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel in April, which had reduced the initial penalties levied on RCR to a loss of 50 driver and owner points and a minimum of a $75,000 fine for crew chief Luke Lambert, along with six-race suspensions on Lambert and two other key team personel deemed responsible for the infraction.
NASCAR had initially imposed a 75 point deduction on and $125,000 fine on Lambert, but the initial appeal found there was some grounds for dispute as to whether this could be considered a 'post-race infraction' as the manipulated tyres were confiscated midway through the race.
Subsequent analysis by NASCAR and an independent testing body then concluded the tyres had been manipulated by the team with the intention of bleeding air out, most probably by putting a small hole in them. Bleeding air from the tyres can increase the grip during an on-track stint, counteracting the natural loss of grip that would be expected from tyre wear and the build-up of air temperatures.
RCR opted to take the appeal to the second and final round, a hearing before National Motorsports Final Appeal Officer Bryan Moss which took place on Wednesday and lasted for nine hours. Moss found in favour of the revised penalty, and in an official announcement of the appeal decision concluded that "based on a preponderance of evidence, the appellants violated the rules."
Lambert will now go on immediate suspension as will the team's tyre technician James Bender and team engineer Philip Surgen. All three will not be eligible to return until July's Daytona race, and thereafter will be on NASCAR probation for the rest of the year. Veteran crew chief Todd Parrott will take over as Ryan Newman's crew chief for the next six Cup race, and also for the non-championship Sprint Showdown and All Star races at Charlotte Motor Speedway later this month. Newman is in 14th place in the Cup championship standings now that the points deduction has been confirmed.
The team said it was disappointed at the outcome of the final appeal.
"We feel we had a compelling case and still feel we were in the right and the facts presented today would have proved that," the team said. "We do appreciate the opportunity to be heard.
"We stand behind our suspended team members and look forward to their return. We will now move on and continue our goals of winning races and making the Chase."
In a separate matter, NASCAR announced Wednesday that the MBM Motorsports team has been penalised for a rule infraction discovered during pre-race inspection at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2. The #40 entry driven by Derek White had improperly secured weight ballast which earns crew chief Kevyn Rebolledo a NASCAR probation through to December 31 and costs White 15 points in both the driver and car owner championship standings.
NAPA to sponsor #24 in 2016
NAPA Auto Parts will be the new main sponsor of the Hendrick Motorsports #24 car next season when Chase Elliott takes over as driver from Jeff Gordon, who is retiring from full time competition at the end of 2015.
The company has signed a three-year deal with the team to act as primary sponsor of the car for 24 of each year's 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, and to be an associate sponsor for the rest of each season's events. The Hendrick team said that further primary sponsors for the #24 wil be announced in due course.
"I'm so fortunate to work with a company like NAPA," said Elliott. "They've been behind me 100 per cent, and I never take that support for granted. Continuing the relationship means a lot, and I know the entire team is focused on making it as successful as possible. It's going to be a lot of fun."
NAPA was previously a primary sponsor at Michael Waltrip Racing until severing its relationship with the team over the controversial race-rigging scandal at Richmond International Raceway in 2013. The company subsequently refocused its sponsorship deals to the second-tier Nationwide Series with a deal to support 18-year-old Chase Elliott for a full season at JR Motorsports.
That partnership culminated in Elliott becoming the youngest-ever national-level NASCAR series champion in 2014, and earlier this year he was confirmed as Jeff Gordon's successor in the #24 car at Cup level in 2016. Even before today's announcement, NAPA had financed Elliott's first outings at Cup level at Martinsville and Richmond; he will also race in the Sprint Showdown on May 15 and will have further Cup outings at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway. Elliott is also defending his title in the newly-names Xfinity Series, again with full-season support from NAPA.
“This is a very exciting time for the NAPA Family,” said Gaylord Spencer, senior vice president of marketing for the auto parts distributor. "Chase continues to represent our brand in a terrific way, and we couldn't be more pleased to take our association with him to the next level. We look forward to working with Chase, the #24 team and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports."
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