DEI hit with big fines, Junior docked 100 points

Updated: May 19, 2007, 5:30 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For a change, crew chief Tony Eury Jr. dragged driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. into the news and not vice versa.

Eury on Tuesday was fined $100,000 and suspended for six races after NASCAR discovered the rear wing mounts on the famous No. 8 were illegal before Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Darlington Raceway.

Also, Earnhardt's team was docked 100 championship points to drop him from 12th to 14th in the standings and Dale Earnhardt Inc. owner Teresa Earnhardt was docked 100 owners' points.

DEI, in a prepared statement, said it would appeal the penalty.

"The car in question was a brand new car for the No. 8 team and the brackets that were found to be nonconforming were built as test pieces before the final design was established by NASCAR," the statement said. "They should not have been on the car and with Tony Eury Jr. away from the track Thursday during inspection, the error was not caught.

"We do not question the infraction, which is clearly spelled out in the NASCAR rule book. However, we have appealed the severity of the penalty."

NASCAR officials said the violation was a blatant attempt to circumvent the rules.

NASCAR sent a technical bulletin to teams on March 21 warning them that any illegal tampering with the Car of Tomorrow would result in a serious penalty, plainly stating that the fines would be exactly what Eury and DEI received.

This was the first time there has been an infraction with the COT.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt Jr.

The penalty was another sign that NASCAR will not tolerate cheating. Crew chiefs Kenny Francis [Kasey Kahne] and Robbie Reiser [Matt Kenseth] were fined $50,000 and suspended for four races each after failing post-qualifying inspection at Daytona.

Their drivers were docked 50 points each.

Michael Waltrip was docked 100 points and his crew chief and competition director suspended indefinitely after an illegal substance was discovered in Waltrip's engine prior to qualifying for the Daytona 500.

NASCAR confiscated the wing mounts of Earnhardt's car on Saturday before the race was postponed until Sunday due to rain.

Eury was allowed to replace the mounts before the race and Earnhardt was allowed to keep his 21st starting position. He finished eighth.

Eury, who will be allowed to work this weekend's non-points All-Star race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, called it an "interpretation."

"It was a bad deal," he said after the race. "It was a part that got put on there that shouldn't have. We've done a lot of offseason testing for NASCAR. There's been three different styles of brackets on there and it just happened to be one of those old-style brackets."

Eury said the brackets were the same ones that weren't discovered during pre- or post-qualifying inspections.

"It fit all of their templates," he said. "It just had a problem when you put [the angle] to where you should have."

Eury said he tried to explain how to fix the problem to series director John Darby and told him it was not done on purpose.

Earnhardt, who on Thursday became the most famous free agent in NASCAR history when he announced this would be his last season for DEI, offered to pay the fine.

"Whatever he needs me to do," Earnhardt said. "I don't really know what he was trying to accomplish there. We still ran all right with the stock positions."

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

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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