Teams seek to overturn Auto Club Speedway rulings

NASCAR announced Tuesday that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel will hear appeals on April 16 for infractions against Richard Childress Racing's No. 31 team and Circle Sport Racing's No. 33 team.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman and his team were penalized 75 points each, crew chief, Luke Lambert, was fined $125,000 and Lambert and two other crew members were suspended after NASCAR determined the team illegally altered air pressures in its tires during a March 22 event at Auto Club Speedway.
 
The findings came after an audit of tires taken from four teams following the Auto Club 400 were sent to an outside agency for further evaluation.

The fine and the suspensions from the P5 penalty were deferred until the appeal so Lambert, team tire technician James Bender and team engineer Philip Surgen will be with the team at Texas Motor Speedway for Saturday's Duck Commander 500 (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX).

On the No. 33 team, a P4 penalty was assessed for truck trailing arm alterations. Crew chief Slugger Labbe was fined $50,000 and suspended for the next three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship races, plus any non-championship races or special events which might occur during that time period. Labbe was also placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31. In addition, car owner Joe Falk was docked 25 championship car owner points.

The appeals will be held at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina with the RCR time set for 8:30 a.m

IndyCar hits Chevrolet with engine penalties

Chevrolet has been hit hard in defence of its manufacturer’s title following points penalties after the opening IndyCar round in Florida.

The engine manufacturer swept to the first six places at the St Petersburg race, earning 128 points for its efforts.

However officials clamped down under Rule 10.6.4.4, stripping the manufacturer of 220 points which means it goes into this weekend’s second round at Nola Motorsports Park in New Orleans on a negative count.

A total of 11 of the 12 Chevrolet engines underwent non-minor engine repairs following the opening round of the series.

Honda, which saw its highest place with Ryan Hunter-Reay carrying Andretti Autosport to seventh at St Petersburg, now leads Chevrolet by 162 points.

No Le Mans for Craig Lowndes in 2015

The 24 Hours of Spa will be the only European GT event for Craig Lowndes this season after his relationship with AF Corse failed to bear fruit.

The V8 Supercars star made his debut in the race with Ferrari squad AF Corse last year in a relationship that he hoped would lead to a Le Mans seat.

Lowndes had first forged links to the Italian marque’s GT program by winning that Bathurst 12 Hour with local team Maranello Motorsport in February, 2014.

The 40-year-old says that Spa and a possible return to the Highlands Park Australian GT Championship finale will be his only GT appearances.

“I’d love to go back and do Highlands at the end of the year, but outside of that, there won’t be anything else,” Lowndes told Speedcafe.com of his GT plans beyond Spa.

“We looked into AF Corse again to see if there were opportunities there this year but there were no seats available.

“The deal with Roger was basically a case of right place, right time, with a chance meeting at the grand prix (Albert Park).

“I’m really looking forward to that and if we can do Highlands at the end of the year, that’d be great leading again into next year’s (Bathurst) 12 Hour.”

Lowndes raced at Highlands last year in Inky Tulloch’s locally based Chevrolet Camaro, but says that a car for his return is yet to be sorted.

In addition to the Chevrolet and Ferrari, Lowndes also has previous experience in Audi GT3 machinery and now says he’s looking forward to sampling Lago’s Lamborghini.

Driving the car alongside Lago, Steve Owen and David Russell, Lowndes is hopeful of improving on his eighth placed finish from last year in the Ferrari.

“The main goal is to help Roger finish,” said Lowndes.

“Last year I think they got to six o’clock on Saturday morning and had to pull the car out of the race.

“If we could first get to the finish line, that’s the first goal, but I’d like to think that we are no worse off than where we were last year.

“I think the driver line-up is very competitive and he’ll have a new car (currently being built by Reiter Engineering in Germany).

“We’ve got to work with the new Lamborghini and see where that’s at in terms of its aero.

“The Ferrari had some strong points around that track so I’m looking forward to seeing what the Lamborghini is like.”

The Blancpain Endurance Series gets underway this weekend, with Lowndes’ fellow V8 Supercars ace, Shane van Gisbergen, among the field.

Recently signing a factory McLaren contract, Van Gisbergen is slated to compete in four of the five BES rounds, including Spa, with Von Ryan Racing.

The Kiwi will share the #58 650S with Rob Bell and Kevin Estre, while Alvaro Parente, Adrian Quaife Hobbs and Bruno Senna complete the team’s line-up in the sister #59 entry.

Honda open to Casey Stoner MotoGP wildcard

Repsol Honda has left open the possibility of fielding a wildcard for Casey Stoner later this year despite overlooking the Australian as a substitute for the injured Dani Pedrosa.

Team manager Livio Suppo has confirmed to Italian media that the team discussed the possibility of Stoner standing in for the Spaniard, who underwent arm surgery last week.

Citing Stoner’s lack of recent competition and unfamiliarity with the upcoming circuits, Honda has instead elected to use its test rider Hiroshi Aoyama to fill the role.

Stoner has tested with the team on several occasions since walking away from full-time racing and retiring to Australia at the end of 2012.

Although disenchanted with the sport upon his exit, Stoner recently announced a one-off return to competition with Honda in the Suzuka 8 Hour production bike race, to be held on July 26.

The 29-year-old tweeted “it would have been an honour” to ride in place of Pedrosa, before adding the tag #NotMeantToBe.

“There were some pros, but more cons, so we decided it would be better to leave it,” Suppo told Italian newspaper Gazzetta de la Sport of Stoner substituting for Pedrosa.

“People don’t realise how high the level is, so having won a lot doesn’t mean one is immediately quick on his return.”

Suppo drew comparison with Stoner’s fellow Australian Troy Bayliss, who scored a best result of just ninth in a four-race return to the World Superbike Championship earlier this year.

Despite throwing doubt on whether Stoner could compete against current Honda hot-shoe Marc Marquez, Suppo left open the possibility of facilitating a return via a wildcard at a later date.

“If he seriously wants to return, he must prepare,” said Suppo.

“Entering a one-off race would be more of a disadvantage, for us and for him, with the added risk of getting hurt. And anyway, I keep on believing that he doesn’t want to race full time.

“(But) a wild card entry at the end of the season? He can ask us and we’ll think about it.”

Stoner had been scheduled to appear on a MotoGP-spec Honda at Sydney Motorsport Park’s Top Gear Festival later this month, before the event’s change of venue and date, which now clashes with Suzuka.