NASCAR has punished Ryan Newman and Richard Childress Racing for tampering with the tires on Newman's car, it announced Tuesday.
Newman and RCR were docked 75 points for "bleeding tires." Newman's crew chief, Luke Lambert, was fined $125,000 and suspended for the next six races. Team tire technician James Bender and team engineer Philip Surgen were also suspended six races.
USA Today's Jeff Gluck called the sanctions "one of the largest penalties in [NASCAR's] history."
"We understand the seriousness of the penalty. In fact, RCR has been one of the most outspoken opponents against 'tire bleeding' since the rumors began to surface last season," RCR president Torrey Galida said in a statement. "Once NASCAR provides us with the specific details of the infraction we will conduct a further internal investigation, and evaluate our options for an appeal."
The practice known as "bleeding tires" involves poking small holes in the tires so that they slowly release pressure throughout the race and last longer. It also helps give the driver additional control of the car.
Rumors that teams have been bleeding tires began circulating in earnest after NASCAR officials confiscated tires at Martinsville last weekend. Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano were also suspected of manipulating tires after a race in Phoenix earlier this month but NASCAR found no irregularities.
NASCAR confiscated tires from Harvick, Newman, Kurt Busch and Paul Menard after a race two weeks ago in California. When tires were seized for the second straight week in Martinsville, drivers and crew members began discussing the rumors in public.
"There's a lot of talk, there's a lot of dialogue, there's a lot of rumors in the garage," Jeff Gordon's crew chief, Alan Gustafson, said, according to the Associated Press. "So yeah, I think some people think something is going on."
"If it’s out there and they know about it, you should be gone forever," Denny Hamlin said, according to ABC News. "If they find [impropriety] multiple times with somebody, they should have a permanent vacation somewhere."
- Dan Gartland