Appeals panel upholds, amends penalty to No. 31 team

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 28:  Ryan Newman drives the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, VA – MARCH 28: Ryan Newman drives the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

While upholding a P-5 level penalty to one of the top teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the National Motorsports Appeals Panel did opt to amend portions of the punishment levied against the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team.

Originally docked 75 points each on March 31 for rules violations following a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway, Ryan Newman and Richard Childress had their points penalties decreased to 50 points apiece. In addition, a fine levied to crew chief Luke Lambert was decreased from $125,000 to $75,000.

Lambert, along with team tire technician James Bender and team engineer Philip Surgen, were originally suspended for six races. Those suspensions all remain.

The No. 31 team was penalized after NASCAR found that it had violated a number of rules following a tire audit after the March 22 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The key violation in question – 20.16.2.F: Tires. NASCAR officials had found that the team had modified its tires, a penalty that warrants among the harshest penalties allowed under the sanctioning body’s deterrence system.

The Appeals Panel agreed that the violations were P-5 in nature, which has increased penalties attached to it if discovered during post-race inspection. But the three-member panel chose to amend the original penalty because “there is no written explanation of what constitutes a post-race inspection.” The tires in question were taken during the race.

The panel, consisting of former USAC President and Chairman John Capels, former President of SPEED Channel Hunter Nickell and Bowman Gray Stadium Operator Dale Pinilis, heard from members of both NASCAR and RCR beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday morning at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina. The decision was announced at 4:20 p.m. ET, less than 24 hours before on-track activity begins in preparation for Sunday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FOX).

Prior to the appeal, Richard Childress Racing requested – and was granted – a deferment of the suspension and fine, which allowed Lambert to call last Saturday night’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR does not allow deferment of points penalties.

RCR now has the option to appeal the decision to Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss.

With his points total increased to 162, Newman now moves from 24th to 20th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings.

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