A penalty for exceeding the pit road speed limit turned out to be costly for Mike Skinner, who posted a disappointing 29th-place finish in Sunday's Banquet 400.

The infraction, which Skinner called "questionable", caused the U.S. Army driver to fall out of contention in the 400-mile race at Kansas Speedway.

The day started well however as Skinner led the opening tour of the 1.5-mile tri-oval from his starting spot on the outside of the front row. However after battling gamely for the lead during an exciting opening 20 laps, he began to gradually fade away as the handling on the #01 U.S. Army Pontiac deteriorated.

On lap 55 and running in the top 15, Skinner came in for what appeared to be a routine pit stop. But as he entered pit road, NASCAR officials said he exceeded the pit road speed limit and assessed him a pass through penalty - meaning he had to leave his position on the track and once again come down pit road.

To make matters worse, when Skinner re-entered pit road, he encountered tire damage and a severe vibration to his desert camouflaged Army Pontiac. That forced him to enter the pits again, this time to take four new tires.

The three consecutive entries to pit road, while the race was under green, put Skinner three laps down and to the back of the field in 41st place.

"We were pretty much toast at that point," said Skinner, who led the first two laps of the race. "Falling three laps down early in the race is a huge hurdle to overcome."

Though he took blame for the penalty, Skinner sincerely felt he did not exceed the 45-mile-per hour pit road speed limit.

"In my heart I don't think I made a mistake," explained Skinner. "But it's their (NASCAR) call and it's their show. And since it was called, I can only offer my apologies to the team and to all of our sponsors. It was so unfortunate - we had another good car, but nothing to show for it. Maybe I'm just trying too hard."

Skinner did fight back and managed to get one lap back.

"This desert camo car got better and better as the race went on," said Skinner, who is subbing for the injured Jerry Nadeau. "At the end, we were really rockin'. The team did a great job in preparing this car. But those misfortunes cost us again. It's bound to turn around for us - hopefully sooner than later."

The next stop for the No. 01 U.S. Army team will be Saturday night - the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte.



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