- Marty Smith, NASCAR
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I love to see a man stand up for his beliefs and genuinely defend his people. It's rare these days, especially when public embarrassment is involved.
That's one reason Richard Childress' response to the penalty NASCAR levied against him, Clint Bowyer and crew chief Shane Wilson, sat me back in my seat like an Earnhardt-Childress engine in an '88 Chevette.
I guess I'm just used to folks accepting a penalty like that and moving on. Maybe that should change. This is just the latest of several instances in recent years that contradicts that expectation. But try as they may to refute NASCAR's findings, teams mostly fail. It's awfully hard to defeat the beast.
NASCAR's decision to drop the hammer on the No. 33 team was a no-frills statement to the entire industry: We, folks, ain't playing.
Never has a Chase contender been penalized so harshly. Never has a rules interpretation dispute so badly damaged one driver's chance at the dream.
Bowyer's opportunity to win the 2010 championship is over.
Or is it?
Childress could simply take his medicine and accept the punishment. He could lick his wounds, ease on down the road and shift his focus to Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, the other two drivers he has in the hunt. He could pass blame down the chain.
Could. But isn't.
Wednesday evening, Childress released the aforementioned statement via e-mail. Its message?
We, folks, ain't playing, either.
Childress and his company don't believe NASCAR's findings. He is adamant that the No. 33 Chevrolet NASCAR found to be illegal in its Research and Development Center this week left Welcome, N.C., last week fully legal. Moreover, he noted his company's longstanding reputation for integrity and the great pride it takes in maintaining that reputation.
Childress is "certain" that the reason Bowyer's car measured outside NASCAR's tolerance range is due to one of two things: damage from the wrecker that pushed Bowyer's fuel-starved car to Victory Lane and/or congratulatory love taps from other drivers during the cool-down lap.
"That's the only logical way that the left-rear of the car was found to be high at the tech center," Childress said in the statement.
NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said Wednesday that from their perspective, that argument isn't plausible. He said they have plenty of evidence from studying the Car of Tomorrow for the past three years that there is no possible way the wrecker or competitors' contact could have resulted in the infraction.
The margin of error, the RCR statement said, was sixty-thousandths of an inch -- which is less than one-sixteenth of an inch. That's a bit more than three standard business cards stacked on top of each other.
What we don't know is how NASCAR interpreted those sixty-thousandths of an inch. It may be sixty-thousandths off at the point of measurement, but that sixty-thousandths' increment at the point of measurement may result in a further skew on another part of the car. We don't know if it did or didn't.
NASCAR on Wednesday would only specify that some areas where the body was "mated" to the chassis were not to their liking, and on Thursday the sanctioning body refused comment on Childress' statement due to the likelihood of an appeal.
Childress confirmed in the statement that NASCAR had warned his organization following the Richmond race that it was extremely close to maximum tolerance, and would take the New Hampshire car to inspection no matter what happened.
"It doesn't make any sense at all that we would send a car to New Hampshire that wasn't within NASCAR's tolerances," he said in the statement.
Pemberton said the post-Richmond warning did not play into the post-Loudon beatdown.
Regardless, this isn't over. Childress made that quite clear.
"We will appeal NASCAR's ruling and take it all the way to the NASCAR commissioner for a final ruling, if need be," he said in the statement.
The way Childress is defending his guys, my expectation is that will happen.
Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.
Richard Childress said he believes the car he sent to New Hampshire for Clint Bowyer was legal, and he aims to prove it. You have to love a guy who's willing to stand up for his people.