By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
September 19th Richard Childress Racing’s No. 33 Cheerios team was on top of the NASCAR world. They had just broke through for their first victory in the last 88 races, and catapulted from 12th in the 2010 Chase standings all the way to the runner-up spot. With nine-races to go they were immediate contenders just a week after they were labeled nothing more than a pretender.
However three days later the world would come crashing down, along with 150-points.
The rear chassis of the car failed post-race inspection by 60-thousandths of an inch (over the 70-thousandths of an inch tolerance). Of course speculation and conspiracy theories began swirling instantly.
Why didn’t NASCAR know the car was illegal when they tested the car at the track? Why did it take three days later for lasers at the R&D center to tell us that the team played outside the rule book?
Well some things just aren’t noticeable to the naked eye, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t help a team perform better. Trust me it was no coincidence that the first time the team won in the last 88 races, the car was found to be a little out of the rule book.
No I’m not suggesting the team purposely did what was eventually found wrong with the car, I’m not saying that at all. All I’m saying is that in the most competitive era this sport has ever seen, where a tenth of a second can often be the difference between starting on the pole and starting 30th on a given weekend, that 60-thousandths of an inch seemed to really do the trick for the No. 33 car.
Richard Childress decided to exhaust the appeals process to help recoup the losses the team suffered following a moment that should have went down as one of the greatest feel-good stories of the year. In his first round against the National Stock Car Appeals Commission Childress was unsuccessful in getting any part of his 150 point deduction, or crew chief Shane Wilson’s six-race suspension, $150,000 fine reduced.
However Childress had one last shot at overturning the ruling. That came Tuesday in Concord, North Carolina.
The long-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner met with the National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate, John Middlebrook.
Middlebrook’s decision came right around 4 PM Eastern Standard Time, and it wasn’t much different than the original appeals decision.
While Middlebrook did decide to reduce Car Chief Chad Haney and Wilson’s suspensions from six races to four along with Wilson’s fine from $150,000 to $100,000, Middlebrook did decide to uphold the 150-point deduction that the team suffered.
“After reviewing all the data, presentation and factors involved, I am ruling NASCAR was correct in its decision to levy penalties,” said John Middlebrook, the National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer who presided over the hearing. “I believe that the revisions that have been made to the penalties are consistent and fair to both parties involved.”
Richard Childress Racing, and driver Clint Bowyer can now finally move on from this penalty. They may not have gotten the verdict that they were looking for, and the No. 33 team may very well be out of the race for the championship, but they can get a head start on the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.