- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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HAMPTON, Ga., -- Carl Edwards' first stint atop the Sprint Cup series points standings was short-lived.
NASCAR on Wednesday penalized Edwards 100 championship points for a rule infraction involving the oil tank lid cover discovered following Sunday's victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, taking him from a 21-point lead over Kyle Busch to seventh place.
Edwards also lost the 10 bonus points he would have received when the points are reshuffled for the championship chase should he be one of the 12 drivers to qualify for the 10-race playoff.
It is the first time since NASCAR went to that bonus system last year that those points were deducted.
"This is classic 16th century punishment where you get your fingers cut off for stealing a penny," said Geoff Smith, the president of Roush Fenway Racing that owns the car Edwards has driven in consecutive victories.
Also, crew chief Bob Osborne was fined $100,000 and suspended for the next six races, and team owner Jack Roush was penalized 100 owner's points.
Roush Fenway likely will appeal the decision to the National Stock Car Racing Commission, which overturned several similar penalties given to Nationwide Series teams at Daytona.
"We've got 10 days to evaluate what we're going to do," said Smith, who is vacationing in Vail, Colo. "I've got to take a look at all the recent penalty history. It'll be next week before we're organized to decide what we want to do."
NASCAR discovered during post-race inspection that the lid from the oil tank of Edwards' car had come off. Officials said that could create an aerodynamic advantage because it allows air to escape inside the car and creates more downforce.
Rusty Wallace, whose Nationwide Series team was fined for a similar incident before the National Stock Car Racing Commission overturned it, said that would create a minimal advantage at a track such as Las Vegas.
Roush said Tuesday on Sirius satellite radio that the screw that holds the lid in place must have worked itself out due to some vibration during the race. He insisted there was no attempt to create an advantage, nor did he believe that created one.
Smith said the screw held for at least 150 miles of practice and qualifying before the race and through at least 399 miles during the race. He said the organization still hasn't determined how the screw came lose because NASCAR won't release the car for engineers to evaluate until Thursday, but he reiterated it was not a blatant attempt to bend the rules.
The biggest difference in what happened in Edwards' situation and the Nationwide cases was the lid came completely off. They apparently were bent in several Nationwide cars.
"It is not a very technically significant thing," Smith said of what happened. "That was somewhat recognized in the Nationwide Series. But I've been around the appellate process for a long time. There is nothing about it that encourages me, no matter what the circumstances are.
"They don't care if you commit 100 penalties or one. They just don't care. We have to really look at that before we submit to the foolishness of that process."
NASCAR officials declined to comment on the severity of the penalty pending the appeal.
Smith said it is in the best interest of Roush Fenway for Osborne to begin serving his suspension this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, noting that missing races early in the season would not be as detrimental to performance as it would be closer to the chase.
Chris Andrews, the head of the engineering department at Roush Fenway, will serve as Edwards' interim crew chief. He will be assisted on the pit box by Robbie Reiser, the long-time crew chief for Matt Kenseth who was promoted to general manager during the offseason.
"Fortunately, we've got an organization that is deep," Smith said. "We do give up something in terms of nuances of conversation. Carl and Bob, they understand one another."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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