Crew chief Barker says he's been running same wing mount setup all season

Updated: May 26, 2008, 4:59 PM ET

AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 was Humpy Wheeler's swan song at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

CONCORD, N.C. -- Crew chief Bootie Barker said he's been running all season the same wing mount setup on Scott Riggs' car that was confiscated on Saturday after NASCAR officials decided it was illegal.

He reminded that the car passed two inspections on Thursday and wasn't impounded until somebody in the garage fingered Riggs' team and Haas CNC racing teammate Johnny Sauter.

"I'm not going to make any excuses," Barker said before Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "The car is my responsibility. But if you knew the whole story it would be like, 'Hmph.' I do myself more harm than good if I say anymore."

The cars were impounded prior to Saturday's Cup practice. Both teams were allowed to use backup cars and start in the back of the field.

Series director John Darby said NASCAR began looking into the allegations on Thursday night.

"All I know is the mounts were not in the same place as they were Thursday morning when they went through inspection," Darby said.

Darby said both teams are likely to face a punishment similar to what Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team did last season after problems were discovered with the wing mount at Darlington.

Earnhardt was docked 100 championship points and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. fined $100,000 and suspended for six races.

"I don't know what the ruling will be, but it probably won't be good," Barker said.

Barker was concerned about the motive of the person that reported the alleged infraction.

"Some people recognized we were doing better and better in points and they would do anything they can to keep us off," he said.

Riggs was 26th in owner points, which is used to determine the top 35 guaranteed spots in the field each week. Sauter was 39th.

Barker believes he knows who turned the team in.

"I wish I could tell you some stuff," he said. "It would probably work against me until I know everything. The person I think that did it, and what we really did, it's pretty ... I've never done it. I'll put it that way."

France: New Car Takes Time

Despite complaints by drivers and crew chiefs, NASCAR chairman Brian France doesn't foresee any major changes in the new car until after the season.

"If there're changes, they're going to be tweaks," he said before Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "They [teams] can't all figure it out if we're changing things as we go along. We've got to let them deal with the car they have. Some are figuring it out faster than others.

"We look at it every week. Obviously, the mile-and-a-half [tracks] have a slightly different show than anywhere else. But the car is really fine. It's doing absolutely what we want. We're satisfied with it."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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Standings

Standing Ovation

Wheeler

Humpy Wheeler received a standing ovation in the drivers' meeting, in honor of his last race as president of LMS.

"Nobody ever bought a ticket to see me do anything at this track," Wheeler told the drivers and crew chiefs. "They bought a ticket to see you guys, and maybe to see a little about what we could stir up before race time. I will be grateful for the rest of my life for what you all have done.

"The show can't go on without you."

Wheeler then referred to Saturday night's Nationwide Series race in which an altercation broke out between the pit crews of Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski over contact by their drivers on the track.

"I grabbed Robin [Pemberton] after it was all over, before he started counting who was hitting who," Wheeler said of NASCAR's vice president for competition. "I said, 'Robin, let's do this again tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock and pay everybody double.'

"You guys put on the show and we sell the tickets. I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying in this sport, just in a different role. I leave you with one thing, and I'll steal a little bit from the Irish Blessing. I hope that the green flag waves slowly on you today, and until we meet again, my God hold you in the palms of his hands."

France said he was touched by Wheeler's words.

"He's such a pioneer to the sport," he said. "He's somebody I have dealt with my entire career in NASCAR. He'll be missed. But like he said, I don't think he's going to go that far away.

"Maybe there is something he can help NASCAR with. He's certainly got as ... broad knowledge of what's going on as anybody."

Confrontation?

Jeff Gordon had a conversation with former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Busch following Sunday's race.

"I guess he doesn't like people to race him," said Gordon, who finished fourth, one spot behind Busch. "Kyle and I never had any issues [at HMS]. But I raced him hard tonight just like I did everybody. And when track position is as important as it is here, you've got to race every single car for every single position.

"I wasn't going to give an inch, and I was racing for position. He's got an issue because he gave me the finger, and you know what? That's not necessary …"

Busch declined to comment on the conversation, saying it would remain between him and Gordon.

Earnhardt woes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. recorded his ninth top-10 of the season with Sunday's fifth-place finish to strengthen his position of third in points. He had only 12 all of last season.

With 102 laps remaining, NASCAR's most popular driver appeared headed for his first win in 73 starts but went into the wall as he was trying not to lap Gordon.

"I didn't want to lap my teammate if I didn't have to, so I was just cruising," Earnhardt said. "I had been into that corner 250 times before that, and I just rolled down in there, and it went straight into the wall.

"The right rear tire was blown out after I hit the wall. I am assuming it went flat getting in the corner, but it went straight in the corner like a right front goes flat. Odd."