Waltrip docked 100 points; crew chief will be fired
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- This wasn't the way Michael Waltrip wanted to enter the world of Nextel Cup ownership or the way Toyota wanted to enter the world of NASCAR's premier series.
• David Hyder (Michael Waltrip; indefinitely)
• Robbie Reiser (Matt Kenseth; 4 races)
• Kenny Francis (Kasey Kahne; 4 races)
• Rodney Childers (Scott Riggs; 2 races)
• Josh Browne (Elliott Sadler; 2 races)
Waltrip's crew chief, David Hyder, and competition director, Bobby Kennedy, were suspended indefinitely by NASCAR on Wednesday after an illegal substance was found in the engine of Waltrip's car during Sunday's qualifying for the Daytona 500. A NASCAR source confirmed Hyder will be fired.
Both were escorted out of Daytona International Speedway by NASCAR officials.
In addition, Hyder was fined $100,000.
Michael Waltrip Racing has three Toyotas attempting to qualify for Sunday's 500.
"I respect NASCAR's rules, its people and the sport's integrity, which is why I am so sad and embarrassed," Waltrip said. "I am dedicated to get to the bottom of this because I will not let the independent act of an individual or individuals tarnish the incredible accomplishment my organization has made to be where we are today."
Toyota isn't resting on an apology. Company officials are expected to send a letter out to all Toyota teams next week stating Waltrip's organization has used two of the company's three strikes. The next team that crosses the line will face the loss of the manufacturer's support.
Waltrip was docked 100 championship points and his wife, car owner Buffy, was penalized 100 owner points. That will make it difficult for Waltrip to get into the top 35 in points guaranteed a spot in events after the first five races of the season.
"During preparations for the 2007 season and especially the 2007 Daytona 500, I specifically requested that our competition teams not disrespect NASCAR, our competitors or our sponsors by blatantly circumventing the rules," Waltrip said.
"This is not the action of an organization, a manufacturer or a sponsor. This was an independent act done without consent or authorization from me or any of my executive management team."
A two-time Daytona 500 champion, Waltrip is one of three owners debuting Toyotas this weekend. He will be allowed to drive his backup car -- actually teammate David Reutimann's backup -- on Thursday in one of the two 150-mile qualifying races that determine the 500 field after the front row.
He must finish second among the 10 drivers in his race not in the top 35 in owner's points a year ago to make the 500.
"They went across the line to try to assure themselves a spot in the Daytona 500," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition.
Pemberton was emphatic this was a team issue and not a Toyota issue. While embarrassed over the incident, Toyota officials insisted they would maintain a relationship with MWR.
"This is not the way you want to enter NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series by any means," said Jim Aust, the president and CEO of Toyota Racing Development.
"For this to happen to him is extremely disappointing and extremely disappointing to Toyota. ... He has certainly apologized to just about anybody that would be associated with his organization. He's beside himself with what's happened."
Pemberton, a former crew chief, called the violation as blatant as any in recent memory.
"We were certainly insulted, for sure," he said.
NASCAR inspectors discovered an unspecified substance in the intake manifold prior to Sunday's qualifying. The team was given the opportunity to install a new manifold for qualifying and the same substance was discovered again.
The car was then impounded and the intake manifold sent to NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. The entire car now will be sent to Concord for further investigation.
Pemberton would not disclose the name of the substance, which he described as clear and Vaseline-like and found in the fuel system.
"We have not seen anything like this in the past," he said. "It is certainly not something that belongs in the engine. It's not something that is common."
Hyder became the fifth crew chief suspended this week.
The crew chiefs for Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth on Tuesday were suspended for four races and fined $50,000, while the crew chiefs for Elliott Sadler and Scott Riggs were suspended for two races and fined $25,000.
"I think we've got people's attention now," Pemberton said.
NASCAR chairman Brian France and president Mike Helton were among those who met with Waltrip and officials from Michael Waltrip Racing early Wednesday.
The parade of people to the NASCAR hauler included Waltrip, general manager Ty Norris and several representatives from TRD.
Lee White, the senior vice president for TRD, said TRD worked with NASCAR throughout the process.
"I can honestly tell you from an ethics standpoint and integrity, along with character and honesty, those things are paramount in our company," he said. "We hold ourselves to a high standard and we hold our teams to high standards. We hope we've picked the right ones."
Waltrip was allowed to use his backup car for Wednesday's practice but never got it approved to get on the track.
Meanwhile, owners and drivers of the other four teams that were penalized spoke out for the first time.
Ray Evernham, who lost the team director for all three of his drivers -- Kahne, Sadler and Riggs -- said the suspensions were like the "death penalty for a speeding ticket."
Roush Racing's Kenseth, who lost crew chief Robbie Resier for four weeks, said comparing what was done to his car with what happened with Jimmie Johnson's car last season is like comparing "jaywalking and attempted murder."
Chad Knaus was suspended for four weeks and fined $25,000 for rigging a device to raise the rear window of Johnson's Chevrolet that eventually won the 500. There were no points deductions for the team.
Reiser and Kenny Francis, Kahne's team director, were suspended when NASCAR discovered a hole near the rear wheel well wasn't properly sealed, creating an aerodynamic advantage.
Kahne was docked 50 championship points.
Rodney Childers and Josh Browne, the car directors for Riggs and Sadler, were suspended for using what were deemed illegal bolts to hold the spoiler to the deck lid. The drivers were docked 25 championship points.
Evernham said the bolts, which had holes drilled in them, were used all last season without penalty. He said the bolts were designed to be lighter.
Pemberton said they allowed air to leak out of the trunk area to create an aerodynamic advantage.
Evernham said he would not appeal Francis' suspension because he could not prove the duct tape covering the hole wasn't cut intentionally to come off during qualifying.
He remained undecided on whether to appeal the other two suspensions.
"I don't understand why they were fine then but aren't now," Evernham said of the bolts. "They were out on the open for everyone to see. Nothing was hidden. There was no intent to circumvent the rules.
"These were pre-qualifying inspections," he said. "You present it to see if it's OK. If they penalize you for something you've already used, how do you know?"
Evernham said the rules need to be written more clearly.
"There are a lot of gray areas and a lot of questions," he said. "Basically, our guys were sent home for asking if something was OK."
Evernham also noted that there are parts in the Nextel Cup hauler from other cars that deal with air direction, but those teams haven't incurred penalties.
A NASCAR official said those parts were not deemed intentional attempts to circumvent the rules.
NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said penalized teams typically bring up other situations to divert attention from them.
Jack Roush said he likely won't appeal Reiser's suspension, in part because of his past failure in appeals and because if he appeals he risks not having Reiser for the first "Car of Tomorrow" race at Bristol.
Team president Geoff Smith said the organization may appeal the point penalty.
"I've got no quarrel with the suspension," Roush said. "I do have a problem with Matt and with the team and with the sponsor of giving up 50 points as we start this trek toward a championship drive."
David Newton covers Nextel Cup for ESPN.com.
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