Stewart's team won't be fined, lose points
By Marty Smith, Turner Sports Interactive April 5, 2003
3:23 PM EST (2023 GMT)
'We don't see any reason to take it any further'
TALLADEGA, Ala. - -- NASCAR's unprecedented decision to impound Tony Stewart's racecar last weekend led most to believe a stiff penalty would soon follow, but the sanctioning body said Saturday that no further penalties will be issued in the matter. k
That said, Joe Gibbs Racing may never see that car again.
"The end fate of the 20 car is still undecided," said second-year Winston Cup director John Darby. "We're waiting until we complete the process. It could or could not be returned. I am pretty comfortable, though, that if and when it does get returned it probably won't be returned in the same state we took it."
The Home Depot Chevrolet in question remains at NASCAR's research and development center in Concord, N.C., where it was taken after failing to pass the "x-measurement" during tech inspection last Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Said measurement is one method of determining the placement of the car's decklid in relation to the centerline of the chassis. According to team manager Jimmy Makar said measurement was off by a half-inch on Stewart's machine.
Darby said NASCAR's decision to impound the machine hinged mainly on the unknown -- and the possibilities thereof.
"This being the first time we've seen this infraction, and understanding enough about it to know that the infraction was something that could not be feasibly repaired at the racetrack, we impounded the car so at least it would be out of competitive circulation for the weekend," Darby said.
"Is it a rock-solid, black and white, ironclad infraction that was done purely for a competitive gain? I can't say that. I also can't say it was done by accident. So we've got to step aside from both those scenarios and deal with what the car actually is and what our real issues are with it."
The decision not to issue further penalties raised the question why NASCAR has taken points away in the past - -- as they did last season to drivers Jimmie Johnson and Rusty Wallace - -- and opted not to this time.
The difference, Darby said, is that Johnson and Wallace were found illegal at superspeedway events, which carry completely different and unique requirements.
"If you review our past penalties that surrounded points, typically they're after something was used in competition -- with the exception of two -- the bolts Jimmie Johnson had at Daytona and Rusty's spoiler," Darby said.
"We're pretty sensitive about things we do on superspeedways because there's a lot of special rules that we use at Daytona and Talladega that aren't even an issue or concern at the rest of the tracks we go to.
"All of those special rules are done in an effort to give us the ability to keep the cars at a controlled speed, and to help level the field of competition.
"The infractions that surrounded the 48 and the 2 both happened at a superspeedway, and both of the pieces of equipment that were involved were created only to deceive either one of the measuring devices that surrounds these specialized rules or to circumvent one of those rules. They would serve no other purpose.
"We're very confident of that. That's what drove those two penalties to a points situation. Although this infraction was severe, it's still a body infraction."
Usually, when a team fails to meet a body template requirement, they are allowed to alter it and continue on. Never before has NASCAR simply taken an entire car.
"This is still a body violation, it's just in an area of the car that, from a time standpoint, a practicality standpoint and a correctness standpoint, would not have been repairable at the racetrack," Darby said.
"The reason it's back now at our research and development center is so our own engineers can apply a lot of our own new standards and techniques and knowledge we have at the R&D center to understand the violation more, so that we can understand where it is different and how it is different.
"The perception of a huge fine, though, is that if a spring is worth $5,000, then there's got to be a thousand parts to construct a racecar, so this must be worth a million bucks. I understand that thought process comes from.
"But if you look at what's factually wrong with the car -- a body violation -- so we don't see any reason to take it any further."