NASCAR driver Carl Long's suspension has been reduced to eight races from a record 12, but his record $200,000 fine remains.
National Stock Car Racing commissioner Charles Strang heard Long's final appeal Monday in Chicago. He announced the reduced suspension Wednesday.
Long, a part-time driver in the Sprint Cup series, was penalized for having an oversized engine at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May. Long and his wife, car owner DeeDee Long, were suspended 12 races and docked 200 points. Crew chief Charles Swing was fined $200,000.
Long appealed in hopes of leniency for his low-budget team. He got some relief, but the fine could keep him from racing again.
"I suppose it's good news," Long told The Associated Press on Thursday. "Eight is better than 12. But they ain't gonna budge on the fine, and they know I can't pay it. They intentionally put it out of my reach."
Long said there is no way Swing will be able to pay the fine, and under NASCAR rules, it would then revert to the car owner. And Long's team won't be allowed to compete until the fine is paid.
More than $16,000 has been raised for Long's cause, with donations coming through his Web site and from a couple "pass the hat" events at racetracks.
"That's a long ways off from $200,000," Long said. "If I can keep stuff like that going, then maybe $200,000 is in sight. The next thing to do is to stand outside the racetrack with my helmet and beg for change. I'm not above doing it, either."
Long, who competed in 23 races between 2000 and 2006, bought the engine from longtime builder Ernie Elliott and said all the paperwork showed it was within NASCAR specifications. It malfunctioned May 15 during practice for the All-Star race, prompting NASCAR's inspection.
Long could have loaded up his car and gone home instead of turning the engine over to inspectors and trying to qualify for the non-points race with a backup motor.
NASCAR measured the engine at 358.17 cubic inches, 0.17 more than the legal limit.
Long argued in his appeal that the infraction may have been due to an error on the part of the engine builder or expansion due to overheating or general wear and tear on the engine.
NASCAR countered that an over-sized engine is one of the most egregious of rules violations and warrants the harshest of penalties.
Strang sided with NASCAR, but reduced the suspension by four weeks.
Long, whose full-time job is working with the Front Row Motorsports team in the Cup series, already has sat out two races. He will be eligible to return to the garage at Watkins Glen in early August. Until then, team owner Bob Jenkins has allowed Long to work solely in the race shop in Denver, N.C.
"I'm very fortunate he keeps me employed," Long said.
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