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Childress says he received a fair appeal hearing

- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 5, 2010

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - Richard Childress emerged from a two-hour hearing Tuesday before NASCAR's chief appellate officer confident he was given a fair chance in his quest to have Clint Bowyer's championship-ending penalty overturned.

It was a marked difference from a week ago, when the team owner was incensed by a three-member appeals panel that upheld the penalty against Richard Childress Racing.

Childress believed John Middlebrook, a retired General Motors executive, moderated an evenhanded hearing between NASCAR and his race team.

"Whatever it is, I feel good about it," Childress said after the two-hour hearing. "It was a very fair opportunity for us to state our case."

Childress said Middlebrook indicated he would not issue a ruling until late Tuesday or Wednesday.

NASCAR docked Bowyer 150 points because the car he drove to victory Sept. 19 at New Hampshire failed inspection. The three-member appeals committee last week upheld the penalty, and an infuriated Childress immediately appealed to NASCAR's version of the supreme court.

It was Middlebrook's first appeal since accepting the $1 a year position in February.

Childress last week accused the appeals panel of disregarding testimony from an accident reconstruction expert the owner hired to prove that Bowyer's car could have been damaged when a tow truck pushed it to Victory Lane. Although Dr. Charles Manning was again on site at NASCAR's research and development center, Middlebrook did not call him to testify.

Instead, Childress and Sprint Cup Series director John Darby went before Middlebrook at the same time and presented their cases. During last week's appeal, each side went individually and was not in the room to hear the testimony.

"We could ask John (Darby) questions, John could ask us questions," Childress said. "We could each one comment and hear the other's comments. That made it very fair."

Childress indicated that if the first hearing had been conducted the same way, he would not have appealed to Middlebrook.

"I think today's procedure, if done similar to the other appeal, we wouldn't be here today," he said.

Regardless of the verdict, Childress said he was ready to move on and urged NASCAR fans to put the two-week saga behind them to focus on the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Childress still has two cars in contention: Kevin Harvick, who is ranked third in the standings, and Jeff Burton, who is ranked ninth.

"Let's go racing," he said. "We've got some of the greatest racing coming up, the tightest Chase. We've got two cars sitting there now with the opportunity to win, and we've been focused. We want to get back to racing for the championship.

Bowyer's title hopes are over regardless of the verdict. The last seed in the 12-driver Chase field, his win at New Hampshire rocketed him to second in the standings, 35 points out of the lead.

But three days after the win, NASCAR ruled his Chevrolet had failed inspection at the R&D Center. He and Childress were each docked 150 points, crew chief Shane Wilson was fined $150,000 and suspended six races. Car chief Chad Haney was also suspended six races.

The points deduction has held during the appeals, but Wilson and Haney have been allowed to work until the due process is finalized.

But Bowyer has had two bad races since the infraction. He admitted after his 25th-place finish at Dover that his team was off, and then had to rally to a 15th-place finish Sunday at home track Kansas Speedway.

He's declared his title hopes over, and Childress said the New Hampshire penalty has spoiled Bowyer's season.

"Oh definitely, chance to win the championship and the two finishes we had didn't help it either," Childress said.

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