SONOMA, Calif. -- Nextel Cup points leader Jeff Gordon and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson were banned from on-track activities Friday, and their status for Sunday's event at Infineon Raceway was in jeopardy after NASCAR discovered illegal front-end modifcations in initial inspection.
The cars of neither Gordon, the defending race champion, nor Johnson will be allowed to practice or qualify Friday.
NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said both cars "failed the initial inspection ... as a result of body modifications found to be outside NASCAR tolerances. The front fender [of both cars] was modified outside of NASCAR regulations. They did not meet the C2 template inspection."
"When we presented the cars for inspection today [NASCAR] found our fenders were outside their limits in between the templates," said Doug Duchardt, Hendrick Motorsports' vice president of development. "The cars fit the templates. We thought we could work on the points between the templates and it became clear to us [in inspection] that we could not."
According to Poston, Hendrick Motorsports' No. 5 and No. 25 cars, for Kyle Busch and Casey Mears, passed inspections.
Poston added, "both teams have an opportunity to repair and resubmit their cars" for inspection up to the start of practice Saturday. "Assuming they pass inspection, they can practice [Saturday] and start at the rear of the field [Sunday]," he said.
Gordon, as expected, alluded to the birth Wednesday of his daughter Ella as having more of his attention than the setback, when asked his outlook on a track where "no one has ever won from the back."
Poston said both teams' crew chiefs, Steve Letarte on the No. 24 and Chad Knaus on the No. 48, would be allowed to supervise the repairs, and at this point, NASCAR had no plans to immediately confiscate the cars.