Although the National Stock Car Racing Commission said it was tempting to give Carl Long and his crew chief penalties they could "more-readily bear," the driver's appeal was denied Tuesday.
Long was penalized for having an oversized engine at Lowe's Motor Speedway last month. Long and his wife, car owner DeeDee Long, were suspended 12 races and docked 200 points. Crew chief Charles Swing was fined $200,000. All are NASCAR records.
Long appealed in hopes of leniency for his part-time, low-budget team. He got some relief, but not quite what he was looking for.
"I'm truly disappointed in NASCAR," Long told The Associated Press. "The sport I love and grew a part of has really given me a sour taste in my mouth."
The commission isolated Long's suspension to the Sprint Cup Series, meaning he can find work in one of the sanctioning body's lower levels. The problem with that, though, is Long's full-time job is working with the Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Chevrolet in the Cup series.
Long said team owner Bob Jenkins was working on a solution.
Although the commission suggested that the fine might not fall to Long if Swing can't pay it, Long believes NASCAR will eventually hold him responsible for the $200,000.
Long, who made 23 races between 2000 and 2006, bought the engine from longtime builder Ernie Elliott and said all the paperwork showed it was within NASCAR specifications. It malfunctioned May 15 during practice for the All-Star race, prompting NASCAR's inspection.
Had Long suspected the engine was illegal, he could have loaded up his car and gone home instead of turning the engine over to inspectors and trying to qualify for the non-points race with a backup motor.
NASCAR measured the engine at 358.17 cubic inches, 0.17 more than the legal limit.
Long argued Tuesday that the infraction may have been due to an error on the part of the engine builder or expansion due to overheating or general wear and tear on the engine. He also made it clear he was incapable of bearing the suspension and hefty fine.
NASCAR countered that an oversized engine is one of the most egregious of rules violations and warrants the harshest of penalties.
The commission sided with NASCAR, saying the race team is ultimately responsible for all components on the race car, including any supplied by third-party vendors.
"While it is tempting to consider penalties that this driver and team can more-readily bear, the sport would not be well served by having a sliding scale of penalties calibrated to a given team or member's resources," the commission said. "Penalties of this magnitude for this type of infraction are warranted in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series."
It was the first oversized engine NASCAR had found since car owner Junior Johnson and crew chief Tim Brewer were suspended 12 weeks for violations at Charlotte in 1991. Their suspensions were reduced to four weeks on appeal.
Long was hoping for a similar reduction.
"I had a feeling that some stuff was gonna be changed," Long said. "That's what I was expecting. But they're being bullies, big bullies."
Long could appeal again, taking his case to the National Stock Car Racing Commissioner, Charles Strang. Long hasn't decided his next step.
"If it works just like it did in this one, then it's a waste of time," Long said.