NASCAR hammers Michael McDowell with 100-point penalty, suspends crew chief

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Michael McDowell was penalized 100 NASCAR Cup Series driver points because of an improperly modified part on his Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford, which finished sixth Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

Crew chief Blake Harris was fined $100,000 and issued a four-race suspension. If McDowell wins one of the five remaining races in the regular season, the team will lose 10 playoff points.

The team also was docked 100 owner points for the L2 infraction that was announced late Tuesday afternoon. The penalty was issued in regards to Sections 14.1 C, D and Q of the NASCAR Rule Book that govern rules applying to body and overall vehicle assembly with single-source supplied parts on the Next Gen car.

A Front Row Motorsports spokesman told NBC Sports the team had no immediate comment on the penalty but likely would have address it with a statement Wednesday. A NASCAR spokesperson said the team has until 5 p.m. Friday to file an appeal.

The racing vehicle introduced for the 2022 season in Cup largely is a spec vehicle, meaning that it’s assembled with parts, pieces and a  chassis supplied by outside vendors. In the first 73 years of NASCAR’s premier series, teams largely built race cars on their own.

With the change in philosophy with Next Gen, NASCAR vowed to issue mega-penalties to teams that altered the car. This is the third such example.

Brad Keselowski‘s team received a similar 100-point penalty for an improperly modified bumper cover after the March 20 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

And on Sunday, NASCAR disqualified the top two cars of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch after the Pocono race because their Toyotas had tape improperly applied to the front ends. Joe Gibbs Racing elected to decline appealing the penalty.

It marked the first time in 62 years that NASCAR had disqualified a race winner during an at-track postrace inspection.

The infraction on McDowell’s car was found during an inspection at the R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina. The cars of McDowell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were selected “randomly” by NASCAR for further scrutiny.