Four crew chiefs suspended by NASCAR

Feb 13, 2007 - 11:09 PM By Bruce Martin SportsTicker Contributing Editor

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Ticker) - Four crew chiefs have been suspended - but not ejected - from the Daytona 500 as NASCAR made the unprecedented move Tuesday of deducting points from teams before the start of the season.

It is the most crew chiefs sent home in a single race in NASCAR history.

Crew chief Ken Francis of Kasey Kahne's No. 9 Dodge Charger and crew chief Robbie Reiser of Matt Kenseth's No. 17 Ford Fusion have been suspended for four races and fined $50,000.

Kahne and Kenseth lost 50 championship points while team owners Jack Roush and Ray Evernham were penalized 50 car owner points. Both teams' qualifying times were disallowed.

Also, crew chiefs Rodney Childers, who works for Scott Riggs, and Josh Brown, who works for Elliott Sadler, have been suspended two races and fined $25,000 with 25 points deducted from both driver and team owner.

Francis, Childers and Brown are crew chiefs for Evernham Motorsports.

All four crew chiefs can appeal the decisions and if those appeals are not heard, they could participate in the race. But if they elect not to appeal, they will not be with their teams at Sunday's Daytona 500. Each has 10 days to appeal.

"We regret that this situation has occurred," Evernham said. "Once we conduct a thorough review of NASCAR's findings, we will determine the proper course of action to take. We did not intend to infringe on the rules and will research this matter to make sure it does not occur again."

Roush, while agreeing there was an infraction, indicated he will lodge an appeal.

"I respect and accept NASCAR's determination that the car was out of compliance as it was inspected after Sunday's qualifying attempt," Roush said. "I feel certain, however, that there was no intention on Robbie's (Reiser's) part to side step any NASCAR rule or policy in this regard. ... I am likely to recommend that we appeal the penalty assessment, although I have some more study to do before I officially make that recommendation."

NASCAR officials still are reviewing the No. 55 Toyota Camry driven by Michael Waltrip. The entire car was confiscated after Waltrip's qualification attempt Sunday when a mysterious substance coating the intake manifold was discovered in technical inspection.

"We're still evaluating the 55 right now," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said. "Everybody is after every point they possibly can get. We will continue our inspection process on Wednesday."

Waltrip could be prohibited from competing in Thursday's Duel 150 qualifying races, subsequently putting him out of the Daytona 500. That would not be the sort of debut that Toyota - a new manufacturer on the NASCAR scene - would be looking for.

"The violations by the 10 (Riggs) and 19 (Sadler) were found prior to qualifying," NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter said. "In each instance, the violations were found for actions detrimental to auto racing, parts not conforming to NASCAR rules and unapproved aerodynamic violations."

Kahne's Dodge and Kenseth's Ford had air that was improperly ducted into the car. The Dodges driven by Riggs and Mayfield had illegal fasteners that had holes drilled into them so air would leak over the trunk area.

"All we can tell you is the parts and pieces were not legal," Pemberton said. "There is a lot of pressure to perform here. It is the Daytona 500 and these guys are going to do everything they can to take it to the edge. The pressure is on. It's the biggest race of the year.

When Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson's crew chief, was ejected from last year's Daytona 500 and suspended four races, he had a long rap sheet of technical violations. Johnson went on to win the Daytona 500 - and the Nextel Cup title.

The four crew chiefs penalized Tuesday have clean records, but that did not mitigate the penalties.

"They've been fairly clean but Mr. Helton announced at Chicago last year we're going to ratchet up the penalties and you can see that this has happened," Pemberton said. "We're just going to keep elevating the points and the dollars until this stops. The points and money are not tied together."

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