LONG POND, PA - JUNE 05: Crew chief Richard Slabbe (L) talks with Paul Menard (R), driver of the #98 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Ford, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono Raceway on June 5, 2010 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Menard loses 25 points, crew members suspended for six races among severe penalties.
NASCAR came down hard on Paul Menard's No. 27 team on Wednesday afternoon, slamming Richard Childress Racing with a harsh penalty for what it said was an intentionally modified part.
In addition to a 25-point penalty (equivalent of 100 points in the old points system), NASCAR suspended crew chief Slugger Labbe, car chief Craig Smokstad and crew member Grant Hutchens for six races apiece. It also issued Labbe a $100,000 fine.
Menard finished ninth in Sunday's Michigan race, but was selected as the "random" (which is not always actually random) by NASCAR to undergo further inspection. Along with Greg Biffle's winning car, Menard's No. 27 was taken back to NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C.
It was there where inspectors found that Menard's frame rails had been intentionally modified "for the purpose of deceiving NASCAR's inspection gauges."
Menard was 15th in points, but was still within reach of a wild card if he won just one of the next three races and gained 15 points on current leader Ryan Newman at the same time. Now, though, he'll need to win two of the next three races to have a shot, which will be virtually impossible – especially with the team shakeup.
This isn't the first suspension for Labbe. In 2006, while crew chief for Dale Jarrett at Robert Yates Racing, he was suspended for four weeks due to an illegally mounted sway bar. That penalty earned him a $25,000 fine.
The biggest penalty in NASCAR history was issued in 2009, when Carl Long was suspended 12 races and his team fined $200,000 for an oversized engine. He was also docked 200 points, which is roughly 50 points under today's point system.