Juniors Team Feels Fine

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s victory in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway sparked a million-dollar celebration Sunday, but it didn’t come without a price on Monday.

Because Junior’s No. 8 Budweiser Chevy was found to be lower than the Winston Cup minimum height of 51 inches by one-eighth of an inch during post-race inspection, NASCAR has fined crew chief Tony Eury Sr. $25,000 for violating Section 12-4-T of the Winston Cup rule book, which states, “Any car that is found to be under the specified height requirement after the completion…of the race.”

The fine against Eury was one of many penalties handed down by NASCAR Monday afternoon. A total of $61,500 in fines, one indefinite suspension and one probation were levied by the sanctioning body.

No points were taken away from Earnhardt Jr. in the process.

The penalty against the Budweiser Chevy team puts only a small damper on Earnhardt Jr.’s gutsy performance Sunday afternoon at Talladega. Junior led the most laps (61) and took the lead from Bobby Labonte on the final lap before taking the checkered flag.

NASCAR spokesperson Danielle Humphrey said Sunday that NASCAR has never taken away a victory from a team for such an infraction. The last time a victory was taken away from a driver for a rules violation was in the Busch Series in the spring of 1999 when Mike Skinner was stripped of his triumph at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That decision was reversed, however, upon appeal.

Sunday’s triumph was Earnhardt Jr.’s second straight on a superspeedway (more than two miles in length) and his first at Talladega Superspeedway, the site of the final victory of his father’s Winston Cup Series career last October.

The victory was also Earnhardt Jr.’s third of the 2001 season and fifth of his two-year Winston Cup career.

In addition to his race winnings, the victory earned Earnhardt Jr. and additional $1 million for winning the Winston No Bull 5 bonus. The fan paired up with Junior, Carrie Richter, of Conneaut, Ohio, also won $1 million as a result of the victory, although Richter was not present at Talladega Sunday for personal reasons.

The last time a winner of a Winston Cup race had the same problem as Earnhardt Jr. was last season, when Jeremy Mayfield, who was then driving the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus, won at California Speedway. His victory also stood, but his crew chief, Peter Sospenzo, was slapped with a hefty $25,000 fine.

Additional fines were levied against the following crew chiefs for rules violations discovered in inspection prior to the EA Sports 500. The crew chiefs were fined under Section 12-4-Q in the Winston Cup rule book, which reads, “Any determination by NASCAR officials that parts and/or equipment used in the event do not conform…or have not been approved by NASCAR…”

*Bobby King – No. 90 Hills Bros. Coffee Ford, rear deck lid, $5,000
*Michael McSwain – No. 28 Texaco-Havoline Ford, rear deck lid, $5,000
*Peter Sospenzo – No. 12 Mobil 1 Ford, fuel cell ($5,000), underpans ($500)
*Chad Knaus – No. 92 Kodia Dodge, Windshield clips too small, $750
*Jimmy Elledge – No. 55 Square D Chevy, travel-limiting devices (bump stops), $2,500
*Slugger Labbe – No. 15 NAPA Chevy, rear window braces, $250
*Paul Andrews – No. 1 Pennzoil Chevy, rear window braces ($1,000), unapproved air deflector ($1,250)
*Donnie Wingo – No. 26 Kmart Ford, unapproved air deflector, $250

Several teams had parts confiscated by the sanctioning body over the three-day period.

Other fines were non-car related, including a $10,000 penalty handed down to Larry Carter, crew chief of the No. 66 Big Kmart Taurus driven by Todd Bodine. Carter was also placed on probation for being involved in an altercation in Kevin Harvick’s pit area.

Harvick made contact with Bodine and sent him into the wall on Lap 96 of the 188-lap event. Carter is suspended from NASCAR until all fines are paid.

Terry Spalding, team member of the No. 26 Ford Taurus driven by Jimmy Spencer, was fined $5,000 and placed on indefinite suspension by NASCAR for the unauthorized use of his NASCAR license (selling credentials).

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