Dale Jr. Penalized, Crew Chief Suspended

by : Lauren Woods

After announcing that he will be leaving the team that his late father founded, Dale Earnhardt Junior made news. In fact, the most recent Nextel Cup race was overshadowed by Dale Jr.'s announcement. With the motorsport community buzzing after that announcement, the most popular NASCAR driver at present made the headlines once again after NASCAR penalized him and implemented a 100-point penalty. This came after it was found out that his No. 8 car used the wrong rear wing mounting bracket.

The infraction cost Dale Jr. his 12th spot in the standings. The penalty will surely hurt Earnhardt's bid for a championship run in his final season with the Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) team.

Aside from the 100-point deduction, Earnhardt's crew chief Tony Eury Jr. has been suspended for six races. Eury is Earnhardt's own cousin. For his part, Eury has this to say: "It was a bad deal. We have done a lot of off season testing for NASCAR. There have been three different styles of brackets on there, and it just happened to be one of those old-style brackets." He also maintained that the penalties they were slapped with are too harsh. The team has taken steps to appeal to the ruling body of the Nextel Cup Series.

An official statement from DEI says: "We do not question the infraction, which is clearly spelled out in the NASCAR rule book. However, we have appealed the severity of the penalty."

Eury also said that they did use the wrong parts intentionally and that the No. 8 Chevy Impala that Dale Earnhardt was driving used the correct mounting brackets when he finished the race. If the suspension though is implemented, Eury will have plenty of time in his hands to think about where he would go when Dale Junior packs his bag and leaves DEI. The suspension is for point races only so Eury can work with Earnhardt at the upcoming Nextel All-Star Challenge which Earnhardt last won in the year 2000. While he can work with Dale Junior at the All-Star Challenge, he will have to sit out the races to be held in Charlotte, Dover, Michigan and Sonoma, California. Taking on Eury's role upon the effect of the suspension will be DEI car chief Tony Gibson.

For Dale, he is now currently out of the top twelve drivers. This means that he has to perform well at the next races in order for him to qualify for the Chase. He currently has 1160 points after the deduction. He is 721 points behind leader Jeff Gordon who has already garnered 1881 points. The remainder of the season should be a good one for Earnhardt if he wants a championship before he leaves his father's legacy.

After eleven point races this season, Dale only recorded one top-five finish and four top ten finishes. While he may appear to be struggling, he still remains as the most popular driver today.

The penalty meted out is the harshest in Dale Jr.'s career. Earlier this season, other drivers have been also penalized by NASCAR for relatively minor infractions. During the first points race of the season in Daytona held in February this year, both Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth were docked 50 points each while their crew chiefs were suspended for four races. The infractions committed were minor compared to the violation committed by Michael Waltrip's team. At the same race in Daytona, it was found out that Waltrip's car used an illegal fuel additive. This resulted to a 100-point deduction for Waltrip and an indefinite suspension for his crew chief and competition director. This shows how NASCAR oversees the game to ensure fairness. After all, the cars used by these drivers are known to be engineered for speed and not even a vehicle equipped with a system can match its power.

If NASCAR will not regulate the modifications done by teams, the game will surely be not as competitive as it is today.