NASCAR Springs Penalty On Martin

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That sound you heard was Mark Martin's championship hopes crashing - again.

Martin's second place finish in Sunday's Pop Secret 400 at North Carolina Speedway was tainted on Monday when NASCAR penalized the driver and car owner Jack Roush 25 points in the Winston Cup driver and owner standings. Additionally crew chief Ben Leslie was fined $5,000 for an unapproved left front spring that was found in Martin's No. 6 Viagra Ford following Sunday's race.

The penalty drops Martin 112 points behind Tony Stewart in the Winston Cup Series championship chase. If Martin loses his title quest because of the penalty it would be a bad case of deja vu for the veteran driver. Martin was fined 46 driver points in 1990 for an illegal carburetor spacer on his Roush Racing Ford that was discovered after the spring race at Richmond International Raceway. Martin lost the Winston Cup championship that year to Dale Earnhardt by 26 points.

The infraction was discovered in post-race inspection and involved Section 12-4-Q in the NASCAR Winston Cup rule book: "Any determination by NASCAR officials that parts and/or equipment used in the event do not conform to NASCAR rules."

The fine is Leslie's third of the season and the second major penalty for the crew chief. Leslie was fined $50,000 after Martin's winning car was too low in post-race inspection following the Coca-Cola Racing Family 600. He was hit with a $1,000 fine for an unapproved window strap at Talladega in October.

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