By AMANDA VINCENT
NASCAR dropped the proverbial hammer on Wednesday when it handed out penalties for rules infractions during the Atlanta Motor Speedway race weekend that culminated in the Feb. 28 running of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sprint Cup Series race. The heaviest penalties were issued to the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota team of driver Martin Truex Jr.
Because of a roof flap issue discovered during pre-race inspection on Sunday, No. 78 crew chief Cole Pearn was served a one-race suspension and fined $50,000. He remains on probation through the end of the year. Pearn already was on probation for an issue, also with the roof flaps on the car, during front row qualifying at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Feb. 14 for the season-opening Daytona 500. As a result of that issue, Truex did not make a qualifying lap.
The team was further penalized, as Truex was docked 15 driver championship points and the team lost 15 car owner points as a result of the Atlanta infraction.
The No. 78 plans to appeal the penalty. Furniture Row Racing issued the following statement from President Joe Garone:
“Due to the severity of the P3 penalty levied against Furniture Row Racing and its crew chief Cole Pearn today, the No. 78 Sprint Cup team has informed NASCAR it will appeal the decision. The infraction, which was immediately corrected following technical inspection at Atlanta Motor Speedway last week, was safety related and not competition related. We sincerely appreciate that NASCAR has an appeal process so we can review the level of the penalty.”
The Sprint Cup Series is in action Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. FRR’s appeal of its penalties defers the penalties, so Pearn will be allowed to fulfill his crew chief duties in the Las Vegas race.
NASCAR issued fines and points deductions to five other Sprint Cup Series teams because of Atlanta rules infractions.
All three Richard Childress Racing crew chiefs — Slugger Labbe on the No. 3 team of Austin Dillon, Justin Alexander on the No. 27 team of Paul Menard, and Luke Lambert on the No. 31 team of Ryan Newman — and Dave Winston on the No. 95 Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing team of Michael McDowell, which is alligned with RCR, were each fined $15,000 and their teams docked 10 car owner points, while the drivers for those teams lost 10 driver points. Their penalties were issued because of body mount issues discovered during pre-race inspections.
Randall Burnett, crew chief for A.J. Allmendinger on the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing team, received penalties that mirrored those of the RCR crew chiefs, as did his race team and driver for an issue during pre-qualifying inspection on Feb. 26.
Meanwhile, four other Sprint Cup teams were issued warnings as a result of inspection issues at Atlanta. The No. 83 BK Racing team of Matt DiBenedetto, the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 98 Premium Motorsports team of Cole Whitt were issued warnings for failing pre-qualifying inspection twice. The No. 32 Go FAS Racing team of Jeffrey Earnhardt received a written warning and issued a 15-minute practice penalty for failing template pre-qualifying inspection three times at Atlanta.
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