Drivers opt against appeal

LOUDON, N.H. - Although Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson said Friday that NASCAR was too harsh when it handed down penalties for failing inspection at Sonoma, Calif., last week, they said they won't appeal.

That means crew chiefs Steve Letarte and Chad Knaus will miss Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway and the five races after that.

In addition to the suspensions, both teams were fined $100,000 and docked 100 points in the Nextel Cup Series standings.

"I'm blown away, to be honest," Gordon said. "To know what other penalties that have been served with this new car, obviously we know that they're severe and they're making a point very clear. "

Chevrolets for Gordon and Johnson had been modified last week before the inspection process.

The right-front fenders had been expanded in areas NASCAR's templates don't measure. The fender had ripples in it to help create more downforce for the front tires.

Owner Hendrick Motorsports argued the car fit the template. But NASCAR said expanding the fender in areas it doesn't measure also constituted cheating.

Knaus watched practice Friday from a motor home on a hill outside the third turn. He used a cell phone and laptop computer to stay in touch with interim crew chief Ron Malec. Jeff Meendering will replace Letarte .

The suspended crew chiefs are banned from entering the garage area or pit road during the race, but they're permitted to be on the property. Meendering likely will be in close contact with Letarte all weekend.

"We've got so much depth in our organization," he said. "We've beefed up our track support a little bit, brought a few extra guys with us and I think it's going to be just as smooth as it's ever been."

The loss of money and points won't hurt Gordon as much as going without Letarte during the race, said Gordon , who still leads Denny Hamlin the standings by 171 points going into Sunday's race

GOOD SERVICE: Sprint Nextel will recycle old cell phones to benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a camp in North Carolina for children with chronic medical conditions.

The telecommunications company will accept old cell phones and recycle parts off those phones. Money made from the parts will be donated to the camp.

Victory Junction Gang Camp was built to honor the memory of Adam Petty.

He died during practice at the New Hampshire International Speedway in 1991.

Sprint Nextel said it would accept any model cell phone, regardless of manufacturer or carrier.

Envelopes are available at all Nextel booths at Nextel Cup Series races. People also can print a postage label at www.nextel.com/speed.

Since 2001, Sprint has collected more than seven million phones.

More than $4 million has been donated to charities.

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com.

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