DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Party foul.
Rusty Wallace's quest to win free beer for the NASCAR Nation took a blow Friday, when he was pushed 30 spots down the starting lineup of the Daytona 500 for using an illegal carburetor in his qualifying race.
Wallace is taking part in one of the most intriguing promotions in NASCAR's marketing-crazy history. A victory Sunday, and every adult ticketholder at the track will get a coupon for a free six-pack of Miller Lite, the brand Wallace endorses.
But now, he'll start the race in 38th place instead of eighth, making the odds even longer for the 46-year-old star, who is winless in 20 starts in NASCAR's biggest race.
"A rule's a rule," Wallace said. "We're just embarrassed about the whole thing."
The carburetor in Wallace's Dodge did not meet the minimum size requirements when it was inspected after his fourth-place finish in Thursday's qualifying race.
NASCAR officials disqualified his finish -- stripping him of his $28,720 in prize money -- and forced him to use a provisional to start Sunday's season-opening race. They also fined his crew chief, Billy Wilburn, $10,000, but did not deduct points, in part because this is the first race of the season.
"I don't know if we want to dip into the world of starting somebody out in negative points," Winston Cup director John Darby said.
The specifications for restrictor-plate races are different than any other tracks on the circuit, and Darby said the carburetor that Wilburn used would be legal next weekend at North Carolina Speedway.
The decision was announced four hours after the garage closed Friday, so Wallace's crew had to play the waiting game most of the day, not even putting the car on the track.
Wallace made a brief visit to the track, stopping in the NASCAR hauler for an update before walking over to his garage stall and peering under the hood while his team changed the engine.
The frustration was clear on Wilburn's face, though, as he scraped a decal off the front fender. He was unsure of what NASCAR had found wrong with the carburetor and insisted if there was a problem, it was unintentional and not an attempt to cheat.
"We're still in disbelief that it happened ... we just had one of the wrong carburetors on the truck," Wallace said. "We didn't check it and we're paying for it now."
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