2007 NASCAR Gatorade Duel scandal
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (January 2012)|
During the 2007 NASCAR Gatorade Duels, the qualifying events for the Daytona 500, various incidents and cheating allegations surrounding the events occurred, leading to various sanctions for teams and drivers.
Evernham Motorsports team directors (equivalent of crew chief) Rodney Childers (#10 Valvoline Dodge Charger) and Josh Browne (#19 UAW/Dodge Dealers Charger) were suspended for Daytona and the following week's race at Fontana, fined $25,000 (US), plus both their teams and drivers (Scott Riggs for the #10, Elliott Sadler for the #19) were penalized 25 championship points due to an illegal modification that was corrected before qualifying in pre-qualifying inspection. It was worse for crew chiefs Kenny Francis (Evernham Motorsports #9 UAW/Dodge Dealers Charger) and Robbie Reiser (Roush Fenway Racing #17 DeWalt Ford Fusion) teams. Both were suspended for Daytona and the next three races, fined $50,000, and their teams and drivers (Kasey Kahne for the #9 and Matt Kenseth for the #17) were penalized 50 championship points due to illegal modifications found in post-qualifying inspection. In addition, due to the modifications, their qualifying times were disallowed. (Kenseth had the 11th-fastest time in the opening round, while Kahne was 28th.) The penalty to the #10 team would drop it out of the top-35 in owners points.
Michael Waltrip Racing
On February 14, three days after the first round of qualifying, David Hyder, the crew chief for Michael Waltrip and Bobby Kennedy, competition director for Michael Waltrip Racing (#44 and #55) and Waltrip-PPI Racing (#00) were ejected from the track by NASCAR officials. Earlier, the intake manifold from Waltrip's #55 car had been confiscated by NASCAR when "an unknown substance" was found in it during post-qualifying inspection. When a new manifold was installed and the engine test-run, the same substance was found in the new manifold, resulting in NASCAR impounding the entire car and disallowing Waltrip's qualifying time, which was 25th fastest. Just before 6 PM US EST, NASCAR held a press conference at which it was announced that both Hyder and Kennedy were suspended indefinitely, Hyder fined $100,000, Waltrip docked 100 championship points, and the team, owned by Waltrip's wife, Buffy, were docked 100 car owner points for violations that included a violation of the rule prohibiting the blending of gasoline with "alcohols, ethers, or other oxygenates"; this quickly became known among the media and fans as "rocket fuel". (Note in 2011, NASCAR mandated the racing gasoline be blended with alcohols and other oxygenates on an 85-15 ratio that Sunoco designed.) Waltrip was permitted to compete in the first Gatorade Duel qualifying race in a backup car. He finished eighth, which was high enough to qualify the car for the Daytona 500.
As a result of the penalty, Waltrip became only the second driver to ever have a negative score in the championship standings. He finished Daytona with -27 points, as his 30th-place showing, worth 73 points, did not compensate for the 100-point penalty. This remained his score until June 4, when he finally made his second start of the year at Dover International Speedway in the Cup series' 14th race. Meanwhile, Kennedy was given a 6-month leave of absence by MWR. He was relieved of duty later that year but rehired by MWR in March 2008. Because somebody had to be fired according to the MWR rules for the near-fatal scandal for the team, David Hyder was ultimately held responsible and relieved of duty.
Duel Race #2
In a post-race inspection following the second Gatorade Duel qualifying race, race winner Jeff Gordon, driver of the Hendrick Motorsports #24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS had been found to be one inch too low because of misaligned bolts on a shock absorber. Due to the official's belief that the violation was unintentional, he kept the win, but would start 42nd in the Daytona 500.
The race, won by Kevin Harvick, saw the following point readjustments based on the penalties handed out:
- Sadler: Finished 6th, was 11th in points, 65 points behind Harvick.
- Kahne: Finished 7th, was tied for 23rd, 94 points behind.
- Kenseth: Finished 27th, was tied for 40th, 157 points behind.
- Riggs: Finished 37th, was 42nd, 163 points behind.
- Waltrip: Finished 30th, was 43rd, 217 points behind, becoming the first driver in NASCAR history to begin a season with a negative point total following the Daytona 500 race (-27 points), and second of three drivers to carry a negative point total for a race (Jeremy Mayfield carried -26 points following the 2000 DieHard 500 after a similar fuel violation.) Carl Long had a 200 point penalty during the Coca-Cola 600 weekend in 2009, after which he did not start a race, which resulted in him finishing the season with (-200) points.
On March 6, appeals for Kenseth by Roush Fenway Racing and Kahne by Evernham Motorsports were denied by the three-member panel that oversees NASCAR's disciplinary action. Before that, Kenseth had been able to climb to 12th in the standings after winning the Auto Club 500 with interim crew chief Chip Bolin.
As of December 2012, neither NASCAR nor MWR has specified what substance was found in Waltrip's engine.