Clint Bowyer's race-winning car at New Hampshire failed an intense NASCAR inspection on Wednesday, earning the driver a 150-point penalty that could wipe out his championship chances.
NASCAR also fined crew chief Shane Wilson $150,000, and suspended him for the next six Sprint Cup races. Car chief Chad Haney was also suspended six races, and team owner Richard Childress was docked 50 owner points.
Bowyer won Sunday's opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship to vault from 12th to second in the standings. The penalty drops him back to last place, 185 points behind leader Denny Hamlin with nine races left to determine the champion.
NASCAR said the No. 33 Chevrolet from Sunday's race had been altered and did not meet its strict specifications.
The car passed its initial inspection at New Hampshire on Sunday, but was taken by NASCAR back to its North Carolina research and development center. It was there that NASCAR found the rear end of the car had been manipulated by Richard Childress Racing.
The development came a day after NASCAR called in RCR officials to warn them that Bowyer's Chase-clinching car from the Sept. 11 race at Richmond had nearly failed inspection because its back end was very close to the mandated limits.
At a previously scheduled appearance Wednesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame before the penalty was announced, Bowyer said he was aware his car was under scrutiny but pleaded ignorance as to what could be wrong with the Chevrolet.
"Man, I have no idea. I show up on Friday, I bring my helmet, my HANS and I get in the car," he said during the appearance, which was before NASCAR announced the penalties against his team.
"Anything that happens Sunday to Friday, I don't know. I know we won the race this weekend and it was a lot of fun. We led the most laps and won the race and the guys work hard in the shop to bring fair, fast race cars.
"Aside from that, I don't know what's going on."
Bowyer will still be listed as the winner of Sunday's race.