Matt Kenseth crew chief reacts to penalty
April 25, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Jason Ratcliff said members of Joe Gibbs Racing expected NASCAR to come down hard on the team for an engine infraction discovered two days after Matt Kenseth’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in Kansas, but admitted that “some of those penalties were quite surprising, were quite shocking.”
Ratcliff, the crew chief for Kenseth, was hit with a $200,000 fine, suspended for six points races and placed on probation through Dec.31. The penalties, which also included a loss of points for Kenseth, car owner Joe Gibbs as well as auto manufacturer Toyota, were the result of a single connecting rod that failed to meet the required minimum weight of 525.0 grams.
"I respect (NASCAR’s) stance on it and they’ve got to have a go-to guy and that go-to guy is the crew chief."
Ratcliff appeared on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio hours after Wednesday's ruling.
“It’s been something we’ve discussed a little bit and obviously we will have to deal with it as an organization and that’s what we will do,” Ratcliff said.
Joe Gibbs Racing has competed with engines supplied by Toyota Racing Development (TRD) since 2012, and has no involvement in the building process.
“It’s pretty much a turn-key deal,” Ratcliff said. “They provide us with the engines and very knowledgeable people that can tune them at the race track and assist us with installing and removing from the car and then any post-race inspections we would have, they have people there to assist us as well.”
But, Ratcliff, who also won at Las Vegas earlier this year with Kenseth, said he understood why he was penalized even though he wasn’t involved in the engine-building process.
“I respect (NASCAR’s) stance on it and they’ve got to have a go-to guy and that go-to guy is the crew chief,” he said. “We raise our hand and say … we’re responsible for this race car from the time we get to the race track until the time we get through post-race inspection. … As a crew chief you accept that responsibility.
“Now the reality of it is no … these cars are so complex and the amount of detail that goes into them each and every week there’s no way one individual could put his finger on every part and piece. And even if he couldn’t put his finger on it, there’s no way he could oversee every part and piece. That’s why you have good people that support you.
“I’m 110 percent convinced this is nothing more than an oversight. I don’t think there’s any intent.”
Lee White, president of TRD, told Sirius XM NASCAR that there was no intent to circumvent the rules, and said the issue was “a total screw up on our part.”
“I can’t even sit here and tell you that we’re being falsely accused or anything,” he said. “We screwed up.”
In addition to the loss of 50 driver points, the three points Kenseth would have earned for the win should he qualify for this year’s Chase For The Sprint Cup have been rescinded and the STP 400 win will not count toward his 2013 win total should he be in contention for one of two available Wild Card positions.
Gibbs’ owner’s license for the No. 20 team has been suspended for six points races, meaning the team will not accrue owner points for those events.
JGR officials said they intend to appeal the penalties. Until the appeal is heard, Ratcliff will be allowed to continue his at-track responsibilities.
“Unfortunately when you are in a competitive sport, things can happen,” Ratcliff said. “The way I view it right now, and the race team’s view, is fortunately we’ve been running really well. I think that 50 points is something … I feel strongly that we can overcome. You have to remember that as of Sunday afternoon we were eighth in points. Unfortunately we’ve had two DNFs this season. To be that high in points think shows how well we have competed. And I don’t think that will change.”
The loss of points, as it currently stands, dropped Kenseth from eighth to tied for 14th in the standings.
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