NASCAR to toughen penalties

NASCAR to toughen penalties

NASCAR to toughen penalties

Suspended crew chiefs will face further restrictions on what they're allowed to do while serving their penalties, NASCAR chairman and chief executive officer Brian France indicated Tuesday.

"We just had a meeting on that today," France said. "We will be addressing that very shortly."

Currently, a suspension prevents a crew chief from being in any area where he needs his NASCAR license. That includes the garage and pit road, but crew chiefs can be in motor homes or in the grandstands at or around a track.

Tony Eury Jr., crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., ended a six-race suspension Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway, but watched the Lenox 300 from a motor home overlooking the backstretch.

Steve Letarte, crew chief for Jeff Gordon, and Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson's crew chief, both began six-race suspensions at New Hampshire. But Letarte and Knaus were at the track and their teams said they participated in discussions on preparing their cars for the race in which Gordon finished second, Earnhardt Jr. fourth and Johnson fifth.

France also said the sanctioning body doesn't want to send a rule-breaking team home without competing in an event, but if penalties continue, especially on infractions involving the car of tomorrow, they will escalate and could get to that point.

"We'd like to make the deterrent significant enough that that isn't necessary for us to do," he said. "But are we willing to go there? Of course."

France used NASCAR's weekly teleconference to give his midseason thoughts on the state of the sport. He said that while teams will likely never stop trying to defeat the rule book, people looking for unfair advantages are fighting a battle they can't win.

"There will always be some of it," France said, referring to several instances this year in which teams and crew chiefs have been fined for rules violations.

"We could have any penalty structure and (still) face somebody willing to think they can outsmart us. Ultimately, we'll prevail."

France said NASCAR would continue to fight in two major lawsuits, one filed by Kentucky Speedway challenging NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation on how Nextel Cup dates are awarded. The other is by AT&T, seeking the right to keep its logos on the No. 31 Chevrolet driven by Jeff Burton.

"We're just defending the whole industry's rights," France said. "They would like to rewrite all that and benefit themselves. That's wrong. We're going to hold up our end of the bargain and defend ourselves."

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Re: NASCAR to toughen penalties

New Policy for Suspended Crew Chiefs
Sporting News

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The honeymoon for suspended crew chiefs is over.

NASCAR vice president of corporate communications Jim Hunter told members of the media Thursday at Daytona International Speedway that crew chiefs serving suspensions for rules infractions no longer will be allowed on racetrack property while their punishments are in effect.

Hunter said the new policy, which was adopted Wednesday at the instigation of NASCAR chairman Brian France, resulted from criticism within the media and NASCAR’s fan base that the presence of suspended crew chiefs violated the spirit of the sanctioning body’s penalty.

Tony Eury Jr.’s presence in a motorcoach outside New Hampshire International Speedway was widely publicized last week. Hunter said Eury, crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 8 car, had asked permission to attend the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 Nextel Cup race and was allowed to do so.

No more. Though Eury’s suspension ended at New Hampshire, suspended Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs Steve Letarte (Jeff Gordon) and Chad Knaus (Jimmie Johnson) will not be allowed on track property for the final five races of their current six-race suspensions.

"We’re going to handle this the way we’ve handled it in the past, with (Nextel Cup Series director) John Darby and (vice president of
competition) Robin Pemberton informing the crew chiefs," Hunter said. "Instead of ‘Yeah, you can do that,’ it’s ‘No, you can’t do that any more.’

"We want to take away the perception that they’re circumventing the penalty, that the penalty doesn’t mean anything because they’re still on site...With people thinking that this is a circumvention of the penalty, the next step is, ‘What do you do about it?’"

As to enforcement, Hunter expects to have plenty of help from fans, the media and competing teams in the garage.

The new policy reflects NASCAR’s desire to erase the perception that cheating and bending the rules are acceptable components of the sport.
That attitude extends to infractions involving the cars themselves.

"The old days are gone," Hunter said. "Everybody likes to write all these stories about how it’s part of NASCAR to get around the rules and all that sort of thing. There’s plenty of areas for guys to still be innovative and creative without breaking the rules."

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