Labbe suspended for illegal part

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Crew chief Richard “Slugger” Labbe was suspended for four races and fined $25,000 on Tuesday for using an illegal part on Dale Jarrett’s car at Richmond International Raceway.

NASCAR officials discovered the sway bar on Jarrett’s car was illegally mounted when the No. 88 Ford passed through Saturday night’s pre-race inspection in Richmond.

The sway bar, also called an “antiroll bar,” counteracts the rolling force of the car body through the turns. Any alterations made to it would likely be in an effort to help the car’s agility through the corners.

Car owner Robert Yates said the violation was not intentional.

“The wording of various rules in the NASCAR rulebook leaves them open for interpretation, as many teams have contested for years,” Yates said in a statement. “Obviously, in this case, we interpreted the rules differently from NASCAR but because of the lack of a clear cut understanding, on our part, we believe we have grounds for appeal and have started that process.

“If the appeal’s committee believes otherwise then we will accept those terms.”

The penalties included a loss of 25 driver points for Jarrett and 25 car owner points for Yates.

The points deduction drops Jarrett from 11th to 12th in the standings, 380 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

The suspension means that Labbe, in his first season with Jarrett, will miss this weekend’s race in Darlington, S.C., the All-Star race and Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and the June 4 event in Dover, Del. But NASCAR could allow Labbe to continue to work with the team until his appeal is heard.

It’s unclear what kind of punishment Labbe could face within his own company if NASCAR rules the violation was blatant.

Yates was one of the most critical car owners of crew chief Chad Knaus when he was caught cheating during preparations for the Daytona 500. Knaus made an illegal modification to Johnson’s car and was also suspended for four races.

Yates argued that the penalty should have been stiffer.

“If there is language in the rule book about not doing that particular thing, then he ought to have to go race the Talladega short track the rest of his life,” Yates said in February. “If the language covers that area … he should be gone forever. That’s just stealing.”

Yates also said he would fire any employee caught intentionally cheating.

“If it was (an infraction) with a clear rule written against it, and he didn’t tell me about, because I wouldn’t approve that, I’d have fired him, yes,” Yates said.

AP-ES-05-09-06 1755EDT

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