NASCAR Ramping Up Cheating Penalties; Looking Into Crew Chief Activity

Tuesday, July 3rd 2007, 3:12 pm
By: News On 6

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) _ NASCAR has not ruled out suspending drivers as a deterrent for cheating on the Car of Tomorrow.

Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were all docked 100 points when their cars failed recent inspections. Their crew chiefs were fined $100,000 (euro73,500) and suspended six races apiece, but the drivers have been allowed to compete and all three are in contention for the Chase for the championship.

``We'd like not to get to (suspending drivers),'' chairman Brian France said on a conference call on Tuesday. ``We'd like to make the deterrent, a portion of the penalty, significant enough that that isn't necessary for us to do.

``But are we willing to go there? Of course we would. We have in the past and we will in the future. We're not hoping to do that. That's sort of a death penalty.''

France also said NASCAR is investigating reports that crew chiefs Chad Knaus, Steve Letarte and Tony Eury Jr. were at New Hampshire International Speedway last weekend despite their suspensions. All three are banned from the garage area during their suspensions, but the national television and radio broadcasts both reported the Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs were on track property and in communication with their drivers.

One report even said Letarte participated in a Saturday team meeting with Gordon.

And, Earnhardt reportedly spotted Eury Jr. on a hill inside the race track _ a sighting that was written about in his post-race media report.

France said the crew chiefs being on property and participating in at-track activity was not in the spirit of a suspension and that he met earlier Tuesday with NASCAR president Mike Helton to discuss the matter.