Dale Earnhardt Jr. was docked 100 points yesterday, and his crew chief was fined $100,000 and suspended for six races for an illegal part at Darlington Raceway.
The penalty, for illegal modifications to the rear wing on Earnhardt's Car of Tomorrow, is a significant setback in his team's bid to win a Cup title before racing's most popular driver leaves after the season.
Dale Earnhardt Inc. will appeal, team president Max Siegel said. Crew chief Tony Eury Jr., who is also Earnhardt's cousin, is expected to work Saturday night's All-Star race because suspensions do not begin until the appeals process is heard.
"We are not disputing the ruling," Siegel said. "But we are appealing the severity of the penalty because the penalty itself is not spelled out in the rule book."
NASCAR, however, sent a March 21 memo outlining penalties for specific infractions on the Car of Tomorrow and specifically listed fines of $100,000, points deductions and suspension.
The penalty knocked Earnhardt from 12th in the standings - the final qualifying position for the Chase for the Championship - to 14th. He's now 721 points behind Nextel Cup leader Jeff Gordon, and 54 points out of Chase contention.
Earnhardt announced last week he will leave DEI, his late father's company, after the season. He was not available for comment yesterday, but Siegel said he met with the crew earlier in the day and the driver was present. Although the team has been in turmoil since Earnhardt's announcement, the driver and crew have promised to race hard for the rest of the year.
NASCAR inspectors said Earnhardt's rear wing was improperly mounted when it was checked Saturday. The brackets used to mount the piece were confiscated.
Eury, who has never had a major infraction during his 7 years as a Cup crew chief, said the problem with the wing was not intentional. He said the brackets were an old set that had been used during a test session.
But NASCAR competition director Robin Pemberton said the infraction was blatant.
Mark Martin added three races to his schedule, pushing his total to 26 events in 2007. Martin, running a partial schedule for Ginn Racing, tacked on races at Pocono, Richmond and Dover.