NASCAR Driver Fined $200K for 0.17 Cubic Inch Engine Violation

And thus began Carl Long's worst week ever...

Carl Long Millstar Dodge Charger

Image courtesy of The Freewheeling Daredevil via Flickr.com

How much is 0.17 cubic inches worth to you? If your name is Carl Long, the answer is: much more than $200,000. That's the monetary fine (the largest in NASCAR history) that Long received last week for running with an engine that was 358.17 cubic inches in volume, just 0.17 inches above the NASCAR limit. For Long, who was in 63rd place before the suspension, the fine is just the beginning.

The fine was technically levied to Long's crew chief Charles Swing (who has sincebeen admitted to the hospital for heart problems), but will be paid by the car's owner, Danielle Long, (yup, Carl Long's wife). Along with the fine, Long was also suspended for twelve races and docked two hundred driver points in the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Suffice to say, he's had a rough week.

Engine size has historically been a point of contention in NASCAR, as engines apparently wear enough throughout the races to cross the acceptable line. In Long's case, his car blew an engine during practice last week, providing NASCAR with the opportunity to inspect it. The engine was sent to the R&D lab, where it was determined to be 0.04 percent out of spec.

Long offered, on his website, this explanation:

"We purchased an engine from a reputable builder at the beginning of the season. We overheated the engine in practice and had to change it. We had the option to withdraw and go home before admitting it to inspection. Trusting that our blown engine wouldn't have any problems passing NASCAR tech, we submitted it and put our other motor in the car to get ready for the Showdown. As everyone knows, it didn't pass tech. The rules are 358 cubic inches and ours is 358.17 cubic inches. The .17 is as wrong as if it would have been 400 cubic inches. This engine is 50 horsepower less than top teams but it was all that could be afforded. I would have never knowingly went to the race track with a big engine!!!"

Bloggers, along with Burton Smith, the owner of eight NASCAR race tracks, appear to support Long (you can even virtually sign a petition in his favor).

Smith said, "Why would you fine this man $200,000 for an engine that's a little bit over? We've seen that so many times. What is it proving? I don't know who made that decision. ... In my opinion, they're dead wrong. Some of the things that NASCAR can do can disrupt and ruin a person's reputation, ruin their career. Two hundred thousand dollars? I've seen in the past where your engine may be a little bit over and maybe they take the engine."

"I don't know Carl Long, but there's an injustice done there," Smith also said. "I hope he wins his appeal. He can't race for 12 weeks? That's so cruel to try to ruin this man. That would absolutely financially ruin him, and it's just not right. I think you can prove your point a better way than that."

What do you think, PopSci readers? Were the fine and penalties fair?