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Clint Bowyer rips NASCAR for Loudon penalties, raises numerous questions, in a mad-as-hell defense.

  Clint Bowyer (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  By Mike Mulhern



   Clint Bowyer presented a spirited, angry, even defiant defense of his 'integrity' and his Loudon, N.H., victory, in a blistering Friday morning attack over NASCAR's devastating championship-killing post-race penalties this week.
   "I'm still proud of that win, and I don't think we did anything wrong," Bowyer said.

   "I am angry about the whole thing. This tarnishes my win.
   "I am very angry about it. I'm angry for my fans, angry for my sponsors.
   "There are a lot of things about this I don't understand. And instead of spending this week celebrating the win, I've been trying to figure out what the hell they're talking about."
   Bowyer pointed out his Loudon car passed NASCAR's at-track inspections several times, and added that NASCAR had told the team several days before that race that the sanctioning body would take that car back to its Concord, N.C., R&D center for more detailed inspection no matter where Bowyer finished Sunday's 300-miler.
   It was Wednesday afternoon that NASCAR announced the car was 'illegal,' though without providing any specifics, and hit Bowyer and his Richard Childress-owned team with a whopping 150-point penalty, a staggering $150,000 fine, and six-week suspensions for crew chief Shane Wilson and his car chief. The 150-point deduction takes effect immediately, kicking Bowyer from second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championships back to last place, and with little chance now of challenging the other 11 title contenders over the rest of the chase. Unless Bowyer and Childress can win their appeal.
   Bowyer raised the 'integrity' issue, saying the penalties hurt that.
   "There is a lot of integrity that goes into this sport, and I am damned proud of being part of this sport," Bowyer said, warming up to his case.
   "I love this sport, and I wouldn't cheat to win a race in this sport.
   "I woke up at 6 o'clock this morning....which is pretty uncharacteristic for me. I grabbed a notebook and just wanted to make some notes, for myself and for you.
   "There are a lot of questions. And trust me, I have a lot of questions too.
   "I like to have the facts, and I've got a timeline:
   "One, we were warned after Richmond that that car was 'too close' to tolerances.
   "Two, we were told by NASCAR (apparently Tuesday after Richmond) that they were taking our Loudon car (to the R&D center for further inspection) after that race, no matter what.
   "Three, the car passed three pre- and post-race inspections at Loudon.
   "Four, Monday the rumors started about off-sets, and in my opinion forced NASCAR's hand to do something about it.
   "Five, Wednesday, 150-point penalty.
   "Six – I'm looking for answers too – but a two-ton wrecker pushed us to victory lane. I'll elaborate: we were warned after Richmond that both sides of the car were high; after Loudon we were told just the left side was high. That shows we definitely had the thing fixed and that something happened to that car in that race."
   And Bowyer had another list is issues too:
   "First, after they told us (after Richmond, before Loudon) they were taking the Loudon car no matter what, who in their right mind wouldn't make triple-sure that thing was right.
   "After being warned if it was out of the box again, they were going to penalize us...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 (before Loudon).

  Car owner Richard Childress (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  " Richard grabbed everybody (for the team's post-Richmond debriefing) -- 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, Scott Miller, crew chief (Shane Wilson), and it was a butt-chewing. It was 'Make sure, make damn sure that car passes tech when we go.'
   "Second, I could have hit the wall doing a burnout, I could have done a lot of things other drivers have done in post-race celebration. I didn't. We didn't want to push that in NASCAR's face. We appreciated them warning them (before Loudon). We were told about that situation Wednesday (Sept. 15th), the day the car was to leave for Loudon; we had two hours to jump on that car and make sure it was right.
   "Three, the car passed pre- and post-race inspections. How can a car pass pre- and post-race inspections and three days later get such a huge fine. They take the car apart to measure this thing, and in my opinion that's not how the car is raced on the track.
   "Four, once rumors started, it wasn't long before the penalty. I think NASCAR has a lot of problems with a lot of cars out on the track being out of the box, and I think they needed to set an example with something.
   "Five, I don't think the punishment fits the 'crime.' 60-thousandths of inch – grab a quarter out of your pocket: that's 65-thousandths of an inch. Ask yourself 'is that performance enhancing'?
   "If that won me that race, I would gladly give it back to them.
   "My question is is possible that a two-ton wrecker could bend this quarterpanel 60-thousandths of an inch? You've got to ask yourself that. I got hit during the race a couple of times; racing is tough.
   "Now if this thing was knocked out half an inch, I could see something being made (by NASCAR). But if it passed the height sticks after the race...
   "The same height sticks Jimmie Johnson's car and Denny Hamlin's car did not pass...and then, miraculously enough, when that pit crew pushed it back around (for a re-measurement) and after 20 minutes it did pass, well, that was pretty amazing.
   "My dad owns a towing business. I know a little something about wreckers. About 15 years ago they took those push-bumpers off tow-trucks for this very reason – in a snowstorm, people would say 'Please come push me out of this snow bank.' Then two days later they show up with a bodyshop bill in their hands...wanting you to pay for the body damage you did to the back of their car.
   "So just ask yourself if it's possible for that to happen."
   The first hint of the coming controversy came Monday Sept. 20th post-Loudon:
   One point to ponder: if Bowyer's Richmond car had been found with the same 'out-of-round' issues that angered NASCAR inspectors about his Loudon car, and if Bowyer were fined the same 150 points for such a violation, then Ryan Newman, not Bowyer, would have made the final spot in the chase.
   "I truly believe, in my opinion, these rumors forced NASCAR's hand," Bowyer said.
   When Bowyer was pressed to explain his comment "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," Bowyer responded with this:
   "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 (Rick Hendrick's) was as dominant as they were -- do you think they had something up on the competition?
   "(But) this year it's as close as it's ever been. It's pretty damn good racing....the best we've had since this car (of tomorrow COT) was put into rotation (in 2007).
   "So I think they do do a good job....I respect what they have to look at each week.
   "(Now) my personal opinion, I don't like the R&D Center. (Here Bowyer is apparently referring to the more detailed post-race inspections on Tuesdays after every race.)
   "I think what you bring to the race track is what they (should) inspect.
   "(But) three days later the car the car is completely taken apart (at NASCAR's Concord shop), from something you haven't even raced. I mean it's a completely different vehicle -- You take the suspension off the thing.....all components that bolt on.
   "It ain't a decal you took off.
   "These things are bolted on, and (taking them off for detailed inspection) could interrupt the way the car is measured."
   However it is Bowyer's contention that other teams may be racing cars that perhaps have been too close to the line, or over the line, that is key here.
   Has NASCAR warned some teams 'don't bring that car back to the track next week'?
   And if it has issued such warnings, is it because those cars have been 'close' to illegal, or really illegal?
   Why is this all not just black-and-white? After all, that's a major part of the entire COT concept.
   And if Bowyer's Richmond car did have 'issues,' why did NASCAR wait a full week before discussing that....and why did NASCAR then follow that the very next day with a brutal series of penalties on Bowyer for his Loudon car?
   How many other cars this season have been thus questionable?
   "I think there are a lot of cars close to being on the out-of-the-box side," Bowyer says.
   "That's what crew members and crew chiefs are paid to do.
   "Yeah, I do think there are a lot of cars that are very close."
   Overall Bowyer said NASCAR officials "do a good job.
   "I appreciated the fact they warned us (about the Richmond car). 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, (but) we're going to continue to do this and don't think you're going to do anything about it.'
   "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."
   At this week's NASCAR post-race inspection in Concord Bowyer said the left-rear quarterpanel of his Loudon car "was split. The bumper-cover from the quarterpanel, the rivets were pulled out of it, and the rear quarterpanel was kinked.
   "If it was hit hard enough to split that...could it have moved it that much? I would say that was my only explanation of the whole mess."
   And now Sunday's Dover 400?
   "It is hard to even focus on this week," Bowyer griped. "That is what sucks. We are riding a momentum wave, a huge boost of confidence over the last month...and we get to Dover and all this mess.
   "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."
   And to repeat the basic question, just what the heck was the specific part or piece or measurement that NASCAR has objected to? And why is everybody covering that up?
   Why is this story looking to be something of a coverup about something?
   Where is the transparency?
   Bowyer: "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."

Shut up, Clint. You know as

Shut up, Clint. You know as well as I do how far ahead of the inspectors the teams are in the technology arms race. This kind of thing - cars that pass before the race then turn out to be illegal afterward - is as old as the sanctioning body itself. The more these drivers try to defend themselves the less credible they become.

It is so tiresome that teams can't just stick with the rulebook instead of wasting a lot of money and time trying to cheat it.

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