CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Clint Bowyer’s slim shot at winning the Sprint Cup championship in Michael Waltrip Racing’s final season took a huge hit Wednesday when NASCAR penalized the team for an infraction in the opening playoff race.

NASCAR said the No. 15 team had parts not properly installed on its Toyota during the opening inspection Friday at Chicagoland Speedway.

Bowyer was docked 25 points, dropping him to last in the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.

Crew chief Billy Scott was fined $75,000, suspended for the next three races, and placed on probation for six months.

There are two races remaining in the opening round of the Chase before four drivers will be cut from the 16-driver field.

MWR immediately appealed, and NASCAR has asked the appeals officer to expedite the process.

The team said in a statement it “respectfully disagrees,” with the penalties.

“MWR has made mistakes in the past, but we feel we are correct in this instance,” the team said. “We look forward to the opportunity to present our case to the appeals committee and have no further public comment until the process is completed.”

KURT BUSCH’S crew chief had an emergency appendectomy that could delay his arrival in New Hampshire for this weekend’s playoff race.

Tony Gibson posted Wednesday on Facebook that he was home and resting a day after the procedure.

Stewart-Haas Racing said Gibson plans to be at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Sunday’s race, but will not leave North Carolina until he’s able.

The team will have engineer Jeff Klausmeier ready as interim crew chief should Gibson miss any time.

WHEN JEFF Gordon takes the green flag for Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he will set the mark as NASCAR’s new Iron Man.

Gordon will be making his 789th consecutive start, passing Ricky Rudd for the record. Rudd, who once used duct tape to keep his swollen eyes open so he could drive, set the mark in 2002 when he snapped Terry Labonte’s streak of 655 consecutive races.

Although proud of his mark, Gordon readily admits Rudd and Labonte suffered through far more than he ever did.

“Those guys are way tougher than me. I’ve never had to tape my eyelids open to make the race,” Gordon said.