CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Give Clint Bowyer credit for deftly navigating his way through what was likely the worst week of his NASCAR career.
Riding high after his win in the opening round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, Bowyer had the wind knocked out of him 72 hours later when NASCAR ruled the car he drove to victory at New Hampshire was illegal. The decision essentially eliminated Bowyer from title contention and sent him into Sunday's race at Dover International Speedway as the central figure in a major scandal.
Bowyer presented a passionate defense of his Richard Childress Racing team, then tried to go about salvaging his season. He sputtered in Sunday's race to a 25th-place finish that dropped him 235 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
His last hope comes Wednesday in an appeal before a three-member panel. His team will ask for the penalties to be dropped and for Bowyer's 150 points to be restored.
The issue surrounding Bowyer's car has been a public relations disaster for NASCAR.
Fans already suspect of NASCAR didn't understand how the car could have passed a post-race inspection at New Hampshire, only to be ruled illegal three days later. And, if it's possible to fail a more detailed inspection at NASCAR's research and development center, then why aren't all the cars seized after every race? Or at least all of the Chase cars?
If NASCAR really had warned RCR about building cars dangerously close to the templates, as Hamlin alleges, why didn't NASCAR publicize that before The Associated Press reported that Bowyer was close to failing a pre-race inspection at Richmond?
It's enough to cloud the entire situation and leave outsiders unsure of whom to trust.