TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) – Crew chief Todd Berrier was suspended for Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway after Kevin Harvick’s car failed inspection.

Harvick qualified second for the race, but his Chevrolet was disqualified after NASCAR found three violations in the trunk area. Car owner Richard Childress was called into the NASCAR office Saturday morning and told that Berrier had been ordered from the track.

It’s not clear how long the suspension will last. Berrier sat out four races at the beginning of this season when he was caught rigging Harvick’s fuel tank. He also was fined $25,000 and the team was docked points.

Childress spent an hour arguing with NASCAR on Berrier’s behalf.

“If I said what I wanted to say right now I’d probably be in bigger trouble than Todd,” Childress said. “All I can say is it’s a new era in NASCAR.”

Harvick’s car failed inspection Friday because the trunk area was not properly sealed, the fuel vent was not vented to the outside of the car and doors that open from the inside of the trunk to the car’s shock absorbers were open when they should have been closed.

He will now start 42nd on Sunday and Childress said he would move on top of the pit box to help call Harvick’s race. Childress did the same thing during Berrier’s first suspension and the team responded by winning the race in Bristol, Tenn.

Berrier’s punishment comes amid a swirling controversy surrounding the 1-2 finish last weekend of Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. Both cars failed their immediate inspection when both were too high when first measured.

NASCAR gave the cars a brief amount of time to “settle,” and the cars then shifted back to a legal height.

Although the teams were not penalized, NASCAR seized their shock absorbers to take a closer look at them. While ruling the parts were legal, NASCAR issued a bulletin Saturday that prohibits them from future use. Many competitors were angry the Hendrick teams were not penalized, especially Childress.

Both Johnson and Busch failed inspection in March – the same weekend Harvick did – and NASCAR suspended all three crew chiefs. But Chad Knaus and Alan Gustafson had their suspensions overturned on appeal, creating a fury over alleged special treatment.

Childress wouldn’t address that Saturday, and said his anger was directed “at the system. I’m very, very disappointed in the system.”

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter denied favoritism and said that Berrier was sent home because “a person’s history comes into play.”

That was echoed by competition director Robin Pemberton, who said NASCAR is following a warning issued last week by president Mike Helton that it will no longer tolerate bad behavior and cheating.

“These were repeat offenders,” Pemberton said.

That was of little solace to NASCAR competitors, who are angry and confused over NASCAR’s decision not to punish the Hendrick drivers.

“The first two cars last week are so obviously doing something on the race track that is of benefit to them, then they don’t pass inspection and they’re allowed to sit there and jump up and down on their cars and do whatever they need to do to get through?” asked an incredulous Dale Jarrett.

“I didn’t realize they had a 24-hour period they could wait for these things to settle down. I’m fired up about this. I don’t understand it.”

AP-ES-10-01-05 1237EDT

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