Three-member appeals panel will hear case; Gibbs will argue against severity
Joe Gibbs Racing will appeal penalties levied against its No. 20 team on May 8, NASCAR has announced.
The appeal will be heard at 9 a.m. at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C. Three members of the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel will hear arguments regarding stiff penalties levied by NASCAR against JGR for a violation discovered in the engine Matt Kenseth used to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Kansas Speedway on April 21.
In post-race tear-down at the R&D Center, NASCAR officials determined that one connecting rod in the No. 20 car engine was lighter than the minimum of 525 grams set forth in the 2013 Sprint Cup Series Rule Book. Last week the sanctioning body responded with penalties that included a 50-point deduction to Kenseth, a six-week suspension and $200,000 fine to crew chief Jason Ratcliff and a six-week freeze on Gibbs’ owners’ license.
The sanctions also included the vacating of Kenseth’s pole from Kansas and the disqualification of his victory toward Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup seeding or Wild Card consideration. Although the engine in question was manufactured by Toyota Racing Development and not JGR, NASCAR historically has taken a very hard line on engine issues.
“As everyone knows, there are a few things that are understood in the garage area that are big,” Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president for competition, said last week at Richmond. “When you talk about engines, you talk about tires, and you talk about fuel. That’s a common thread that’s been understood, and it’s stood the test of time for the last 65 years. Don’t mess with those areas. And the penalties are severe.”
Gibbs said he understands a penalty is warranted, but plans to appeal the severity of the sanctions. TRD officials have said the connecting rod in question -- which was manufactured by an outside vendor -- came in 2.7 grams under the minimum, and the other seven connecting rods were legal. JGR and TRD have also argued that the infraction was not a result of attempting to gain a performance advantage.
“We know there’s going to be a penalty for that,” Gibbs said of the violation. “What we’re going to appeal is the severity of the penalties. … When you have motor experts look at it, what they would say is, there is no advantage to having that one light rod in that motor. That’s one thing that’s very important to me is, the intent here was not to get an unfair advantage in any way. That’s very important to me.”
Ratcliff called last weekend’s race at Richmond, and is able to work until the appeal process is complete. The three-member appeals panel has the power to uphold, overturn or reduce the sanctions levied by NASCAR. If the penalties are upheld, Gibbs can make a final plea to the Chief Appellate Officer, former General Motors executive John Middlebrook.
The Gibbs appeal will occur one week after the appeal of another team -- Penske Racing, this one for point deductions, fines and suspensions handed out for the rear end housings in the Nos. 2 and 22 cars being confiscated prior to the April 13 Sprint Cup event at Texas. For that offense, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were docked 25 points apiece, and their crew chiefs, car chiefs and team engineers were each suspended six weeks.
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