Punishments for Reiser, Francis expected to be long

Updated: February 12, 2007, 9:47 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kenny Francis, the team director for Nextel Cup driver Kasey Kahne, took a mini-vacation with his family in his nearby hometown of Jacksonville on Monday.

Francis and Robby Reiser, the crew chief for 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth, are expected to be given an extended vacation by NASCAR beginning on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Sunday's qualifying times for Kahne and Kenseth were disallowed because of unapproved aerodynamic enhancements discovered during post-qualifying inspection.

NASCAR officials said the infractions were as blatant as the one that resulted in Chad Knaus, the crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, being ejected from last year's Daytona 500, suspended for an additional three races and fined $25,000.

Sources close to the situation said the punishment for Francis and Reiser would be similar if not the exact same.

Asked Monday on a Sirius Satellite radio show if Knaus' ejection established a precedent, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said, "It is in the close family."

Ray Evernham, the owner of Kahne's car, told ESPN.com on Sunday that Francis did not intentionally alter the No. 9 car for a competitive advantage.

Pemberton said both cars passed pre-race inspection, indicating somebody had to create the advantage between then and qualifying.

"If you did this at Martinsville, you wouldn't even know it," Pemberton said on Sirius. "You wouldn't be looking at it. But when you go to different racetracks there are certain things that are more important than others.

"And certainly anything to do with air moving around a car at the restrictor-plate races is a most important thing."

Pemberton said there were a couple of air ducts near the rear wheel tub and oil tank area on the interior side of the car that should have been sealed off for qualifying.

He said the caps on those areas were not sealed on Kenseth's car, allowing them to come off during qualifying. He said the caps on Kahne's car were duct taped on.

"And the duct tape that was used to seal it had been cut or made where it blew into the car," he said.

Pemberton said the incidents could have occurred accidentally, but that doesn't change the end result.

"We've had many penalties in the past that were along the same line at the speedways how guys move air in and around the race car," he said.

Kahne and Kenseth will start their 150-mile qualifying race on Thursday at the rear of the field because of the incident. Pemberton said there never was consideration for sending the entire team home.

"We will take all the appropriate measures and penalties, but we cannot take the opportunity away from the fans that come to watch these teams race because of one or two crew members or crew chiefs," Pemberton said. "The 17 car will be racing with Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne will be in the field."

NASCAR officials continue to look into substance found in the manifold of Michael Waltrip's Toyota, resulting in the car being impounded and the piece being sent to Concord, N.C., for further review at the Research and Development Center.

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

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter