Clint Bowyer's Penalty Will Cost Him Title, Just Like Dale Jr. and Mark Martin
In football, coaches drill the idea into their players that fewer mistakes means more wins. It is no different in NASCAR.
A dropped lug nut costs a pit crew three seconds in the pits, but leads to lost positions on the track. Spinning the tires on a restart means the car to the left or right has the advantage entering the first corner.
One slight mistake makes a big difference.
When it comes to winning and losing championships, mistakes are the last thing any driver needs.
Look at Clint Bowyer, he came out of New Hampshire on top of the world. Just like 2007, he left the "Magic Mile" with the biggest win of his season. This time, he left with the idea of bringing home a championship to Richard Childress Racing.
From entering the Chase in 12th, he jumped to second, knocking on the door of points-leader Denny Hamlin. But, then all that work evaporated.
It was only 60-thousandths of an inch, the slightest of margins, that cost Bowyer everything he worked for at New Hampshire.
NASCAR handed down a 150-point penalty because the quarter panel on the left-rear corner was not aligned within specifications.
It cost him points, his crew chief, and his car chief for six races. Although Childress has filed an appeal, unless he presents good evidence of how the car failed the R&D Center's inspection, that penalty will stand.
That might cost Bowyer more than crew members and points. It could cost him a championship.
It's not the first time a penalty cost a driver a title, or at least the opportunity to be a champion.
In 2004, the most successful driver throughout the season was Dale Earnhardt Jr. Entering the Chase, he won four races and was looking to capitalize on his best season of Cup competition.
He would get his fifth win at Talladega during the inaugural Chase, but a little slip of the tongue in victory lane is all it took to take away that momentum.
"It don't mean shit right now. Daddy's won here 10 times," is what Junior said in victory lane on live television.
One four-letter word cost him 50 points, but it also took away his momentum.
He would crash out in Atlanta, and despite getting a win at Phoenix, he was out of title contention. It was simply his emotion of getting a win that cost him the points.
Go farther back to 2002, and there was another penalty that cost a driver a championship.
In one of the closest title battles before the Chase was introduced, Tony Stewart and Mark Martin were in a tight battle that had Stewart ahead by the slightest of margins.
But, Martin's team had a penalty late in the season that cost him some very crucial points. Roush appealed the penalty, but the ruling came at the season finale at Homestead that the appeal was denied.
By that time, Martin tried but failed to overtake Stewart in the standings, and "Smoke" got his first Cup championship.
Whether Bowyer's penalty will play out the same way is yet to be seen, but Dover is certainly an indication that his path will be similar.
He went from the ultimate high in winning, to explaining how he got the penalty, then trying to rebound at a tough race track. He struggled, and finished a disappointing 25th.
Now, after two races, he is still 12th in the standings. All that hard work, and it seems it is all for naught at this point.
He still has time to rebound, and could still be a contender when the Chase gets to Homestead. But any more penalties or mistakes, and the No. 33 team will certainly be left with many unanswered questions.
UPDATE: The National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel has denied the appeal of RCR in regards to their penalties following New Hampshire. The 150-point loss for both driver, Clint Bowyer, and owner, Richard Childress, will stay.
Crew chief Shane Wilson will begin his six-race suspension this weekend at Kansas, along with car chief Chad Haney.
However, Childress has already made it clear he will appeal to NASCAR's chief appellate officer, John Middlebrook.
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