Panel opts to decrease heavy sanctions against Kenseth, No. 20 team
CONCORD, N.C. -- The majority of the penalties against Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team of driver Matt Kenseth were reduced Wednesday by a three-member appeals board.
In a case heard at the sanctioning body’s Research and Development Center, the panel ruled for the most part in favor of JGR for an engine infraction discovered following Kenseth’s April 21 Cup win at Kansas Speedway.
|2013 Sprint Cup Standings|
|3.||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||324|
|13.||Martin Truex Jr.||269|
|16.||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||256|
After a meeting that lasted more than six hours, the panel issued the following changes to NASCAR’s original penalties:
• Kenseth’s loss of 50 championship driver points was reduced from 50 points to 12; all other penalties were rescinded, meaning Kenseth’s Kansas win will count toward his total should he qualify for this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The ruling also allows the victory to apply toward wild-card eligibility for the Chase.
• Joe Gibbs’ loss of 50 championship car owner points was also reduced from 50 to 12 and the suspension of his car owner’s license was rescinded.
• While crew chief Jason Ratcliff’s fine of $200,000 was not altered, the panel chose to reduce his suspension from six events to one. He will, however, be on probation following his reinstatement through the completion of the next three points events.
• The panel increased the loss of manufacturer points for Toyota from five to seven.
Members of the NASCAR Stock Car Racing Commission appeals panel included Denis McGlynn, CEO of Dover Motorsports, former team owner Jack Housby, and Mark Arute, GM and COO at Stafford (Conn.) Speedway.
“This has been a tough, tough week for everyone and certainly no one wanted this to happen,” Gibbs said after the ruling was announced. “We’re committed to make sure that it never happens in the future.
“I want to emphasize, after going through this process, we have great respect for our sport and in particular NASCAR. All of us at Joe Gibbs Racing are committed to being good partners and we want to race with NASCAR forever.
“We’re going to work extremely hard with TRD to make sure that this never happens again. Right now, we just want to get back to racing.”
Kenseth echoed the sentiment of relief from his Twitter account: "Glad to have today behind us so we can get our focus back on racing. I respect NASCAR and the appeals process, I feel like they got it right."
Said NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp: "Our sport has a due process system in place that has served the sport very well for more than 65 years. That due process resulted in this decision here today. While we are disappointed in today’s outcome, we stand firmly behind our inspection process. The inspection of engines, and engine parts and pieces has always been regarded as the Holy Grail throughout the industry. That, along with fuel and tires.
"And in violations such as these, we have no other recourse in the reinforcement process than to penalize the team owner and team members. That’s how our system works. The responsibility of such infractions fall on their shoulders. Our intensity and approach to inspecting engines will not change. We take this ruling and we move on to Darlington."
Inspection of the No. 20 team’s engine at the R&D center following the STP 400 revealed one of eight connecting rods measured approximately two grams below the minimum weight of 525 grams specified in the NASCAR rulebook.
JGR, which competes with manufacturer support from Toyota, uses engines supplied by Toyota Racing Development (TRD) out of Costa Mesa, Calif.
The points penalty originally dropped Kenseth, the 2003 series champion, from eighth to 14th in the points standings. In the two races since Kansas, Kenseth rose to 11th in points with top-10 finishes at Richmond and Talladega.
The bump in points will put Kenseth fourth in the latest driver standings behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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