The two things NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader Elliott Sadler feared most did not come to pass on Tuesday.
Though NASCAR fined a total of six crew chiefs — three each from Richard Childress Racing and Turner Motorsports — and placed them on probation, along with their car chiefs, the sanctioning body did not impose fines or suspensions for the non-conforming upper front bumper covers NASCAR confiscated last Thursday at Richmond International Raceway.
RCR crew chiefs Luke Lambert (No. 2, driven by Sadler), Danny Stockman (No. 3, Austin Dillon) and Ernie Cope, (No. 33, driven by Kevin Harvick at Richmond) and Turner crew chiefs Trent Owens (No. 30, James Buescher), Jimmy Elledge (No. 31, Justin Allgaier) and Mike Shiplett (No. 38, driven by Kasey Kahne at Richmond) were fined $10,000 each and placed on probation through Dec. 31.
In addition, car chiefs Phil Gould (No. 2), Robert Strmiska (No. 3), Paul Balmer (No. 33), Shannon Rursch (No. 30), Ronald Hornaday III (No. 31) and Christopher Meyers (No. 38) have been placed on NASCAR probation for the remainder of the year.
Sadler retains his series lead, by two points over defending champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Â and will have his crew intact at the racetrack — albeit walking the straight and narrow until the probation expires.
“I was more worried about suspensions and stuff like that,” Sadler told hosts Dave Moody and Angie Skinner on Tuesday afternoon on “SiriusXM Speedway.” “I think it’s very fair as far as probation is concerned, because Nationwide teams — we don’t have the depth at all that (Sprint) Cup teams have.
“So I was really worried about the suspension part of it more than anything.”
The upper front bumper covers are certified parts and may not be modified in any way without prior approval by NASCAR. No such approval was sought or given in the case of the RCR and Turner cars.
There are obvious parallels between the RCR and Turner infractions and the C-post violations NASCAR found on the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson before the season-opening Daytona 500. All violations involved areas of the cars not covered by templates.
According to the teams, cars with identical modifications had passed inspection on at least two prior occasions and had competed on the racetrack. Sadler said his car already had received a sticker at Richmond — indicating it had passed inspection — but the team later was told to replace the bumper covers in question because the car flunked what Sadler called the “eye test.”
Nevertheless, in the case of the No. 48, NASCAR fined crew chief Chad Knaus $100,000, suspended Knaus and car chief Ron Malec for six races and placed both on probation and docked Johnson and owner-of-record Jeff Gordon 25 points each.
All but the fine and probations were vacated on appeal to NASCAR’s chief appellate officer, John Middlebrook. In the cases of RCR and Turner, the penalties announced Tuesday are consistent with the post-appeal sanctions to the No. 48 team.
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