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Hyder back at MWR but remains banned from track

LAS VEGAS -- Suspended crew chief David Hyder has returned to work at Michael Waltrip Racing.

Hyder was put on an extended leave of absence at MWR when NASCAR suspended him indefinitely after an illegal substance was found in Michael Waltrip's engine during a post-qualifying inspection for the Daytona 500.

He was asked last week to return to the shop, but he can't return to the track until NASCAR lifts its suspension. There is no indication that will happen this season, and officials indicated it could be a matter of years.

"We're trying to figure out how to utilize his talent and experience without him being a traveling crew chief until we get all the answers we're looking for," MWR general manager Ty Norris said Friday at Las Vegas Speedway.

"The real world lives in 'innocent until proven guilty.' We have no more proof of his innocence and no more proof of his guilt. He is standing strong to his initial statements that he was not involved."

Sources said after the Daytona incident that Hyder would be fired, but because there is no tangible proof he put the substance in the fuel system there are legal implications preventing that.

NASCAR series director John Darby said during the recent "Car of Tomorrow" test at Bristol there are no plans to reinstate Hyder or MWR competition director Bobby Kennedy until somebody steps forward to admit guilt.

Norris doesn't expect that to happen.

"This isn't going to be a Perry Mason moment," he said. "Someone is not just going to break down on the stand because the show is about the end and say, 'Hey, I did it.'

"We know we're not going to have that moment. The only thing we can do is plead to get our hands on something substantive to investigate."

Norris said pleas for NASCAR to hand over some of the evidence to help in MWR's in-house investigation have fallen on deaf ears. NASCAR has had Waltrip's car since the substance was discovered.

"It's more important to us to get closure to this than it is to them," Norris said. "We can't have closure if we don't know what we're looking for.

"I talked to a gentleman that has worked with fuel since the 1950s, and he's never heard of a fuel or fuel additive that leaves a sticky, oily substance that creates the type of damage inside the engine that this stuff created."

But Norris made it clear this isn't a debate with NASCAR

"It's not even about reinstating people," he said. "It's about trying to understand what happened, how it happened, so we can determine who had access to it.

"Right now, we're just on the outside looking in on this investigation."

Meanwhile, Waltrip spun out during qualifying Friday and failed to make the 43-car field for the second time in three Cup races. He also missed the last race at California.

Teammate David Reutimann failed to make the field for the first time this season, and Dale Jarrett had to use the third of his six past champion's provisionals.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com