Richmond, VA (Sports Network) - Matt Kenseth thinks NASCAR's penalties
assessed to his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team for an illegal engine found in
his race-winning car at Kansas Speedway were extremely unjust.
On Wednesday, Kenseth was penalized with a loss of 50 points. His crew chief,
Jason Ratcliff, had been fined $200,000, suspended from NASCAR competition for
six points-paying races, as well as next month's all-star event (non-points),
and placed on probation until Dec. 31. Car owner Joe Gibbs was docked 50
points as well.
Furthermore, Kenseth's win at Kansas will not earn him bonus points toward
eligibility and seeding for this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
His victory there is not credited towards the eligibility for a driver wild
card position in the playoffs. He was stripped of his pole win at Kansas as
The penalty also included the owner's license for the No. 20 car being
suspended until the completion of the next six point races, making the team
ineligible to receive championship car owner points during that period of
time. A loss of five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Manufacturer Championship points
has been assessed to the team.
NASCAR officials discovered the violations when they conducted a secondary
post-race inspection on his engine at its Research and Development Center in
Concord, N.C. earlier this week. His car passed the initial inspection
immediately after the 400-mile race at Kansas, but NASCAR took his motor back
to Concord for further evaluation.
Officials found one of the connecting rods on Kenseth's engine did not meet
the minimum connecting rod weight. Toyota Racing Development is the engine
supplier for JGR's Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams. NASCAR noted in its
news release of the penalties that "only magnetic steel connecting rods with a
minimum weight of 525.0 grams will be permitted; connecting rod failed to meet
the minimum connecting rod weight."
"I think the penalties are grossly unfair," Kenseth said during a press
conference on Thursday at Richmond International Raceway, the site of this
weekend's Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races. "I think it's borderline
shameful. There's no argument that the part was wrong. They weighed it, and it
was wrong. However, there is an argument that there is certainly no
performance advantage, if you can find any unbiased, reputable and
knowledgeable engine builder. And if they saw all of the facts with what all
the rods weighed.
"The average weight of all of the rods was well above the minimum two-and-a-
half grams, at least. There was one in there that was way heavy. So there was
no performance advantage, and there was no intent. It was a mistake. JGR had
no control over it. To crush (team owner) Joe Gibbs like that and say (the
racing organization) can't win an owner's championship with the No. 20 this
year, I just can't wrap my arms around that. It blows me away."
TRD President Lee White said in a statement on Wednesday that one of the
connecting rods on Kenseth's engine weighed in approximately three grams under
the legal minimum weight. None of the other seven connecting rods were found
to be illegal. White also said that TRD takes full responsibility for the
engine issue and noted JGR is not involved in the process of selecting parts
or assembling the engines in Sprint Cup.
Meanwhile, JGR is appealing the penalty, which allows Ratcliff to participate
at Richmond. If the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel upholds the
penalties, then JGR does have does have the option to make a final appeal in
front of National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook.
Kenseth is hopeful the penalties will be overturned.
"That's what the hope is, and that's why it (appeal process) is set up," he
said. "We'll just go through that and see what happens. Whatever the final
verdict is we'll live with that and move on."
Whether or not JGR wins its appeal, Kenseth is still confident his team will
make the Chase, based on their performance this season. The 12-driver field
for the playoffs will be determined after the Sept. 7 race at Richmond.
"By (Friday) morning, I'm going to be ready," Kenseth said. "I think we're
more motivated and determined than ever. We'll try to go out there and win a
pole and try to win the race."
Kenseth's loss of 50 points dropped him from eighth in the point standings
(-59 behind leader Jimmie Johnson) to 14th (-109). His first win this season
came on March 10 at Las Vegas, in just his third start with JGR.
The Sports Network