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PENALTY TALK September 24, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season, Teams, Trackside.
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Clint Bowyer
Image by TheGeekiestMark via Flickr

The aftermath of the RCR New Hampshire Sprint Cup Series #33 Penalty – Reaction here at Dover!

As you can imagine the discussion here at Dover with many of the drivers and crew chiefs is about the severe penalty  for the #33 after New Hampshire. Below is what Clint Bowyer had to say about the matter this morning here at Dover in the deadline media room in the media center. Also listed below are comments from Jeff Gordon

Clint Bowyer (Media Center Appearance at Dover International Speedway)

TALK ABOUT YOUR WEEK

“You always want to win races. You’re very proud to win races and I’m still proud of that win. I don’t believe that we did anything wrong. I guess I’ll go on record and say that, first and foremost, in my opinion. I want my fans to know that. There is a lot of integrity that goes into this sport. I’m damn proud of being a part of this sport. I love this sport and I wouldn’t cheat to win a race in this sport. We have a lot more integrity for myself and our race team at RCR. Hopefully I only have to do this once. I woke up about 6 o’clock this morning, which is uncharacteristic for me. I just grabbed a notebook and wanted to make some notes. You know, for myself and for you guys. I know a lot of you guys have a lot of questions; trust me; there are a hell of a lot of questions that I have too. And I’m going to go through them. I like to have facts when something like this comes down. I’ve got a timeline of facts.

“I’m going to start with number one: We were warned after Richmond that the car was too close to tolerances. Number two: We were told by NASCAR they were taking the car after New Hampshire, no matter what; first or 43rd. Number three: The car passed pre and post-race inspections at the race track. Number four: Monday, the rumors started about all this and in my opinion, forced NASCAR’s hand to do something about it. Number five: Wednesday came and it was a 150-point fine. And the sixth thing, and at least an answer, you know, I’m looking for answers too. There are several things but one of them is a two-ton wrecker pushed me to victory lane.

“I’m going to elaborate on them. I think the first one (is) we were warned that both sides of the car were high after Richmond. Both sides. After the race in New Hampshire, after it got back to the Tech Center or whatever they call that place, just the left side was high. I think this shows that we definitely had it fixed; something within that race happened.

“Number two: after being told that they were taking the car, we made double-sure before it went to New Hampshire that that car was right. Who in their right mind, knowing that they’re going to take that car, wouldn’t have made triple sure that thing was right before it went to the race track? I could have hit the wall doing a burnout, I could have done a lot of things that other drivers have done and that other teams have done in a post-race celebration this year. I didn’t. We didn’t want to push that in NASCAR’s face. We appreciated them warning us on the fact and we tried to fix the situation. They told us about that situation Wednesday. Wednesday the car leaves. We had about two hours to jump on that car and make sure that thing was right.

“And number three:  The car passed pre and post-race inspection, and three days later get such a huge fine? They take the car apart, completely apart to measure this thing and in my opinion that’s not the way the car was raced on the race track. I think that’s something to be said.

“Number four: Once the rumors started it wasn’t long before the penalty. I think NASCAR has a lot of problems with a lot of cars on the race track being out of the box and I think they needed to set an example with something.

“Number five: I don’t think the penalty fits the crime. Sixty-thousandths of an inch, folks. Grab a quarter out of your pocket (holds up a quarter). That’s sixty-five thousandths of an inch thick. Less than the thickness of that quarter right there resulted in a 150-point fine. Before or after this, grab that and ask yourself if that was a performance-enhancing thing right there.

“And the last thing, my question is, is it possible that a two-ton wrecker could bend the quarter panel of this thing sixty thousandths of an inch? You have to ask yourself that. I got hit during the race, turned a couple of times; racing is tough. Now if this thing was knocked out a half of an inch, I could see something being made. But if it passed the height sticks afterwards, the very height sticks the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) did not pass, then miraculously enough when that same pit crew pushed it back around after 20 minutes it passed, that was pretty amazing. You know it passed those same sticks.

“And, you know, my dad owns a towing business and has since I was born in 1979. I know a little something about wreckers. About 15 years ago they took them push bumpers off the front of them for this very reason. I remember back when people used to come (during) a snow storm and (say) please, push me out of the snow bank. You push them out of the snow bank and two days later they’d show up with a body shop bill in their hand, wanting you to pay the body shop bill for the damage you did to the back of their car. This could happen. That’s the only question I had for you guys (media) is to ask yourselves if it is possible for that to happen. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

YOU SAID YOU FELT LIKE NASCAR’S HAND WAS FORCED BY THE RUMORS THAT STARTED TO FLOW MONDAY MORNING. DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD NOT HAVE GOTTEN THE PENALTY HAD THOSE RUMORS NOT COME OUT? THOSE RUMORS COMING FROM AN INSPECTION AT THE R&D CENTER, WHERE DO YOU THINK THOSE RUMORS BEGAN AND HOW DID THEY GET OUT AND ARE YOU ANGRY ABOUT THAT?

“I’m angry about the whole thing. This tarnished my win. It’s something you’re very proud of. I’m very angry about it. I’m angry for my fans for our sponsors. I’m angry about it. I think that there are a lot of things a lot of people don’t know about, media included, and I don’t understand it about as much as you do. So I found myself all week, instead of celebrating a win, trying to figure out what the hell they were talking about. The rumors, in my opinion, I truly believe that these rumors forced their hand in making a decision.

YOU SAID YOU THINK NASCAR HAS A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH A LOT OF CARS BEING OUT OF THE BOX. WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THE CARS ARE ILLEGAL EACH WEEKEND? HOW DO YOU RESOLVE THAT ISSUE?

“I think NASCAR does a great job of policing and maintaining common ground. Look at the racing.

”Now last year and the last two years, when an organization was as dominant as they were, do you think they had something up on the competition? This year it’s as close as it’s ever been. I think it’s pretty damn good racing on the race track. I think it’s the best as we’ve had since this car was put into inception. So, I think they do do a good job. I respect the fact that what they have to look at each and every week. My personal opinion, I don’t like the R&D Center. I think what you bring to the race track is what they inspect. And, you know? Three days later the car the car (is) completely taken apart from something that you haven’t even raced. I mean it’s a completely different vehicle, you know? You take the suspension off the thing; these are all components that bolt on. It ain’t a decal you took off. These things are bolted on and could interrupt the way the car is measured. How can that possibly be kept in the same box?

“So I think there is a lot of cars that are close to being on the out of the box side. I think that’s what crew members and crew chiefs are paid to do and you know, yeah; I do think there are a lot of cars that are very close. I think they do a good job. I appreciated the fact that they warned us, you know? That’s why we tried to fix the thing. That’s why we did fix the thing before it went to New Hampshire so this wouldn’t happen. Not to rub it in their face and say well you know what you’re talking about, we’re going to continue to do this and don’t think you’re going to do anything about it. I mean you’ve got to appreciate this sport and respect the sport and we darn sure did and it bit us in the rear for it.”

THAT WIN HAD BEEN A LONG-TIME COMING FOR YOUR SPONSOR, CAN YOU JUST TALK ABOUT THEIR REACTION AND HOW MUCH OF A CONCERN THAT IS? “I hope they are happy. Like I said, if of any of you guys, or anybody else, think I won that race because not the quarter panels are high; not because the splitter is this much higher; because of some measurement that nobody even understands in this room or watching on TV, if that won me that race, I would gladly give it back to them. We won that race on fuel mileage is what it ended up being. If you want to start looking at something, look at our fuel cell. How could the quarter panels have won that race? I’m proud of that win. I am proud of giving General Mills their first win in this sport. They’ve sponsored this sport for a long time and that was a good win for all of us.”

WAS ANYONE WITH RCR ALLOWED TO GO TO THE TECH CENTER AND WITNESS THE INSPECTION EARLIER THIS WEEK? ALSO, HAS THERE BEEN ANY DIALOGUE AND WHAT HAS THAT BEEN LIKE WITH NASCAR OVER THE CONTENTION THAT THE TOW TRUCK PUSH ACTUALLY CAUSED THIS INFRACTION? “They do call you down there. At what point in the inspection do they call you down, who knows. Had they looked at the car before? Probably. That is the thing about the R & D center that I don’t like. It’s, it’s…who knows. You don’t know. To answer that question, I don’t have a clue. They were down there at one part of the inspection. I don’t know if it was the part that mattered or not. I do know, one other fact, the left rear quarter panel was split. The bumper cover from the quarter panel, the rivets were pulled out of it and the rear quarter panel was kinked. You know. We have a picture of that. I know that if it was hit hard enough to have split that…like I’m saying, it wasn’t a half of an inch. You are talking less than the thickness of that quarter right there. Could it have moved it that much? I would say that was my only explanation of the whole mess.”

ON THE DIALOGUE WITH RCR AND NASCAR OF THE TOW TRUCK DOING THE DAMAGE: “IN OTHER SITUATIONS LIKE THESE, WE HAVE SEEN DRIVERS GO THE PC ROUTE, NOT REALLY GO ON THE DEFENSIVE. WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO MAKE A STAND? “Because I feel like we were warned. We were told they were going to take the car. We had no reason to take that thing there out of the box. We knew they were taking that car and we knew that was our good shot at winning the race and it didn’t matter whether we finished 43rd or won. They were going to take that car and they were going to look at it. And after being warned, if it was out of the box again, they were going to penalize us. They already told us that. Why in the hell would you take a car to the race track knowing that they are going to take the car and they are going to penalize you if it is out of the box?

“We fixed the problem and that is the only reason I am defensive about this. Richard grabbed everybody, I’m telling you it was an ugly meeting after that warning. This isn’t something that was taken lightly. He took everybody involved with that thing from the fabrication shop to me to Mike Dillon…everybody. Scott Miller, crew chief and it was a butt-chewing and it was a make sure, make damn sure that car passes tech when we go. I’m telling you, everybody did that. That is why I am defensive.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT THE DOVER CAR THIS WEEKEND DID YOU TAKE IT TO R & D TO MAKE SURE IT WAS OK? “Good gawd, I’m talking about last week. It is hard to even focus on this week. That is what sucks. We are riding a momentum wave, huge boost of confidence over the last month and we get to Dover and all this mess. This is a good race track for me. Won two Nationwide races here and love this race track. I think we can win again. I sure hope so. I can’t wait to be back in this very room talking about ‘wonder if this thing is illegal?’. I bet not.”

DO YOU KNOW IF THE CAR’S ALREADY BEEN?

“I just answered that. I don’t know.”

DOES APPEALING THE PENALTY TAKE ENERGY FROM RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING RIGHT NOW? DOES THAT PULL CHAMPIONSHIP EFFORT THAT NEEDS TO BE MOUNTED WITH ALL FORCES?

“You know, it could. And that’s where all the frustration is. I apologize for coming in here and being stern. This isn’t me. This is completely out of character for me. I don’t like being in this situation. But if it paints you into the corner you’ve got to be able to react to it. Does it take away? I’m sure it does. I apologize to Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton and everybody at RCR for that very reason. This is something that shouldn’t have happened; something that’s completely complicated. I think there is about probably 80 percent of the people in the media and everywhere else that don’t understand what the infraction even was.”

JEFF GORDON:

GIVEN WHAT HAPPENED TO THE NO. 33, CLINT BOWYER AND THAT TEAM IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, DOES THAT PUT YOUR TEAM IN ANY HEIGHTENED AWARENESS OR HEIGHTENED SECURITY TO MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS BUTTONED UP? “You have to remember, we have experienced what they have gone through in the past. So, we kind of feel like we were the first ones that were made aware of how tight the tolerances are and I’m not exactly sure of what are all the details of what went on there. I know there is an appeal. Because of we’ve been through this, we already are aware that this can happened to any of us at any time and that you really have to build the best race cars you possibly can but they have to be able to go to that (NASCAR) Tech Center and come back to your shop without the phone call from NASCAR.”

IF A CAR PASSES HERE ON SUNDAY, DO YOU THINK THERE ARE OTHER CARS HERE IN THE GARAGE THAT ARE PROBABLY ILLEGAL AND DO YOU THINK THAT DURING THE CHASE, ALL 12 CHASE CARS SHOULD GO TO THE NASCAR TECH CENTER? “I really wish that I had Steve Letarte (crew chief) up here to answer that question because he knows so many more details about the processes, how close those tolerances are. And that is the difference. Here at the track, the tolerances they can only get so close. When they go to the NASCAR Tech Center, they are checking it with lasers. I think that is when they can really get into the details of everything that is going on with those cars. All I can tell you is that since they started that process, it’s made it a whole different ballgame and a whole different process of inspection and how you build your cars. These days for us, we can run a car and we basically have to rebuild the sheet metal on that car just from a race without ever touching a wall. Without ever being hit by the two truck, anything. The body flexes and moves just from the banking or just from the torque, all those things. So, it’s tough for certain areas of the car to meet those tolerances just after a race. I think what I see with this situation, I guess there was something that they noticed after Richmond and so they focused on that area. If you notice, these cars now-days, they are going down the straightaways sideways. We have obviously learned that putting a lot of side force and twisting, we used to twist the bodies, now we are trying to run the car sideways through the toe of the rear-end housing; how we setup the straight line from front to back to basically run the body sideways on the car and that is all legal. We have all figured out how to do that within the rules. Because you realize that is helping the car, then you want to push everything maxed out to figure out how to get more side-force, more down-force. So, there is no doubt that is going to push everybody in the garage area to try to find out where that limit is. I’m not sure if that is what happened with the No. 33. I really don’t want to speculate. There is no doubt that this is racing and teams are always trying to find an edge. I wouldn’t be surprised I if…they don’t take ever car every weekend. It is hard to say how many would pass and how many would fail.”

THE PRECEDENT WAS SET YEARS AGO THAT THEY DON’T TAKE WINS AWAY. DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHY THAT IS AND DO YOU THINK THAT THERE IS A GOOD REASON FOR THAT IN CASES SUCH AS THIS? “I’m sure there is a good reason. I don’t know what it is though. I’m not really sure. In my opinion, taking points away, might as well take the win away. I don’t know if I have ever asked that question before to be honest with you. I try to stay pretty clear of any discussion that have to do with points, fines, wins taken away. Those are usually not conversations I have with them.”

DO YOU AGREE THAT A WIN SHOULD STAND IN A CASE LIKE THIS? “There is still an appeal process going on. I think at this point, who knows what is going to happen. But, I don’t know. I have just felt like this is the process that we go through. This is what we know goes on in our sport and that is just the way they do it. Do I agree with it or disagree with it? Gosh, I mean I don’t know. I really don’t know. I would have to think about it a little bit more. Like I said, in my opinion, they’ve already taken the win away. I’m sure if you ask Clint, he would probably say ‘Might as well’ because the penalty is certainly very extreme. I don’t know. It seems like to me like there at least should be an asterisk next to the win.”

OTHER TOPICS:
THE DIFFERENCE -CONCRETE TRACK

ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 5 DELPHI/GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET: The good thing about a concrete track like Dover is that we’re not out chasing the track due to temperature changes. That just doesn’t affect concrete like it does on asphalt. The big challenges are where the rubber builds up on the racetrack and the joints where the concrete was poured. Dover is really bumpy. We tend to fight making the car run well over those bumps more than we fight the simple fact that it’s concrete

THE GAME PLAN (KYLE BUSCH)

Kyle Busch has two Sprint Cup wins at Dover. What is his game plan this weekend? Kyle Busch (Driver of the #18) “Our game plan is to try to repeat what we did in the spring. Obviously, we had a good race going. We qualified well. We raced well all through the event. Toward the end of the race, it came down to the final pit stop between Jimmie (Johnson) and myself and we were able to get out of there smoothly and cleanly. Jimmie didn’t. He got caught speeding on pit road. We’ll just go back there with our Interstate Batteries Camry and try to make the most of the event and the weekend and get a good, strong finish and keep our momentum rolling here and try to get through the final 10 races strong in order to get a shot at the championship come Homestead.

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