CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Former NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. once said that when he saw a driver win on Saturday night, he didn't want to read on Monday morning that somebody else had been declared the winner.
He should have mentioned Tuesday as well.
That's when the governing body stripped Peyton Sellers of his
season-opening victory in the NASCAR Camping World series at
Greenville-Pickens Speedway because of an unapproved part in the right
rear shock discovered during postrace inspection.
It is one of the few times that a win has been taken away in any of NASCAR's seriers. Fireball Roberts in 1955 was the last to have a Cup win taken away because of what was ruled an engine modification.
So does this set precedence for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and
Craftsman Truck series moving forward? NASCAR officials say no, that it's comparing apples to oranges, that this better applies to the weekly or touring series.
Andy Santerre, who owns Sellers' car, thinks it should.
Santerre was shocked by the ruling. He doesn't understand why his
situation was any different than Carl Edwards' in the Cup Series earlier
Edwards was fined 100 driver points, and his crew chief, Bob
Osborne, was docked $100,000 and suspended for six weeks after it was
discovered the lid from the oil reservoir was off during a win at Las
Vegas Motor Speedway.
Although many in the garage said this was a blatant attempt to
bend the rules, the win stood.
"I'll be honest," Santerre said. "Obviously there wasn't a whole
lot of NASCAR news over the weekend. Danica Patrick stole the headlines
[by becoming the first woman to win in the IndyCar series]. NASCAR must
have been a little jealous they didn't have anything to write about.
"They had to make headlines some way, so I guess they had to make
us an example."
NASCAR officials again say no, but added that there is some precedence for this type of penalty.
A second-place finisher at a Camping World race at Adirondack International Speedway in Beaver Falls, N.Y., recently was moved to the rear of the field after the car was found to be in violation of the rear gear rule. At the 2005 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, the winner of the race was moved to the rear and had his victory taken away after the car was found to have illegal wheels.
In 1995, Dale Jarrett had a win at Michigan taken away in the Nationwide Series after his car failed postrace inspection.
Santerre still questioned why the win was stripped during a Tuesday conference
call with the panel that made the ruling and was told each situation is
handled on a case-by-case basis.
"I wanted to know what separated me from Jack Roush other than
millions of dollars," said Santerre, referring to the owner of Edwards'
The $100,000 fine was a drop in the bucket to Roush, whose team
was awarded $425,675 for Edwards' win. Santerre was stripped of the
$7,500 first-place money and $1,500 for winning the pole. He was
relegated to the $1,000 prize for 30th.
The $8,000 lost, he said, could have run that team for two weeks.
"This makes me look pretty bad," said Santerre, who still got
the win because he owns the second-place car driven by Austin Dillon,
the grandson of Cup and Nationwide owner Richard Childress.
"It's hard enough to make a living at this level. There's not a
whole lot of money in this series, and it's tough to find sponsors."
Santerre doesn't dispute the infraction. What he doesn't
understand is how the governing body could be so harsh on him after he
has been an ambassador for the series for about 15 years.
"I guess loyalty doesn't mean anything to them," said Santerre,
who was told there could be no appeal.
Drivers and owners have been keeping wins regardless of the
infraction since Roberts' disqualification in 1955. No case was more
famous than in 1983, when Richard Petty was allowed to keep a win
despite illegal tires and an oversized engine.
"Honestly, I don't think this would ever happen in the top
series," Santerre said. "So many fans follow that, and it would cause
such a stir if they took a win from Dale Jr., for example.
"There would be so much bad publicity. NASCAR wouldn't want
Santerre certainly didn't want the publicity he's received. He's
not sure the late France Jr. would have wanted him getting it, either.
"Unfortunately, Bill is not with us, and I guess the new regime
wants to set precedence," Santerre said. "I've had more phone calls on
this than after any win we've ever gotten. At least it's bringing
attention to our series, which may be what they [NASCAR] wanted."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. ESPN.com's Terry Blount contributed to this report.