The Frontstretch: NASCAR Mailbox: Penalties, Penalties, Penalties And Your Reaction To Them by Summer Bedgood -- Thursday April 25, 2013

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Depending on what part of the country you are in, winter has hung on incredibly long despite the calendar’s insistence that it is, indeed, spring. Last weekend at Kansas Speedway was once of those instances, as freezing temperatures in the morning along with the famous, blustery Kansas wind made walking around the racetrack nearly unbearable. Heavy jackets were aplenty and the hunched over, arms wrapped around your own waste stance was apparent at the coldest points of the day.

Unfortunately, the alternative which was the June race the track held a couple years ago, is frying. Though I hate the cold weather and would rather deal with 100-degree temperatures than sub-zero conditions, spectators aren’t going to have to go the various health centers inside the track to be treated for 30-degree temperatures. This is as opposed to the handful of individuals who were dealing with heat exhaustion when the first Kansas race was held in June.

The problem isn’t the time of year, though. The problem is this unbearably cold and long winter of 2012-2013. As a Kansas native, even I think that having a winterized April is ridiculous and unseasonable for even an unpredictable climate. Most of the time, this is our beginning of spring and the weather is beautiful and refreshing. Instead, it snowed the Monday after the race.

Let’s hope that next year, the weather behaves like it is supposed to.

Now onto your questions.

“So, I come home from work and all hell has broken loose in the NASCAR world. When did Wednesday become penalty day?! Fill me in, please.” William

I’m still trying to piece everything together, William, but here is the gist of the penalties NASCAR announced on Wednesday.

First off was Johnny Sauter’s No. 98 Camping World Truck Series team. – Their fuel cell was taken during the opening day of inspection on Thursday before the trucks were even first on track. He finished fifth in Saturday’s race. – NASCAR announced that the team was in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4K (if in the judgment of NASCAR Officials, race equipment that has been previously verified or previously approved and/or sealed by NASCAR for use in an event, pursuant to sub-section 8-6 and/or 8-12, has been altered, modified, repaired, or changed in any manner); 20B-16 (once a fuel cell or fuel cell components have been certified, modifications of any kind will not be permitted to the fuel cell or fuel cell components); and 20B-16.1B (standard black, safety foam with minimum free-standing height of eight (8) inches, acceptable to NASCAR Officials, and used as provided by an approved fuel cell manufacturer, must be used: Fuel cell safety foam modification.) of the 2013 rule book. – Sauter’s crew chief Joel Shear was fined $10,000, suspended for the next four races, and on NASCAR probation until December 31st. – The team was docked 25 driver and owner points.

However, that penalty pales in comparison to the one Matt Kenseth received: – Kenseth’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota engine failed post-race inspection at NASCAR’s R&D center after his win at Kansas on Sunday. – The failure was as a result of one of the connecting rods not meeting the minimum weight. – The No. 20 team was said to have violated Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20-5.5.3 (E) (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) of the 2013 rule book. – Crew chief Jason Ratcliff has been fined $200,000 and suspended for the next six points races and the All-Star Race. He is on probation until December 31st. – Kenseth loses 50 driver points and the No. 20 car loses 50 owner points. – The pole will not count towards next year’s Sprint Unlimited – The win will not count towards the bonus points total when the points are reset for the Chase. – The No. 20 car is not eligible to earn owner points for the next six races. – They were docked five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Manufacturer Championship points.

Finally, to clarify a rumor that has been spreading around the Internet, Joe Gibbs himself has not been suspended. Only the owners license for the No. 20 car has been suspended, and that’s for the next six races. It goes without saying that Joe Gibbs Racing will appeal the penalty.

So, yeah, crazy day in the world of racing, and one of the harshest penalties we have seen from NASCAR in a very long time. And we thought Penske was hit hard!

Who totally had his win ruined from this past weekend? “This guy.”

So what did we learn from the JGR penalties? Never, ever, EVER, mess with the engine. It won’t end well for anyone.

Honestly, this one has left me speechless and the penalty speaks for itself. So I’m going to move on to the next question if this one has been sufficiently covered.

“I saw Denny Hamlin say that he was looking to return at Richmond. That’s only a few days away. Any word on that?” Courtney

Well, the short answer to that is, no. Hamlin tweeted as such on Tuesday night, and then later Wednesday afternoon sent out a note that read, “Unfortunately I won’t be racing this weekend at Richmond. It kills me to not be in the car for my team and sponsors but after long discussions with the doctors we have decided to wait on my return back to racing. Thanks to all of my fans who have sent encouraging messages over the last month. I’ll be back in no time.”

Hamlin said at Kansas he was feeling much better than he had in Texas the week before and sounded optimistic about a return in Richmond — but alas that is not to be this weekend, nor likely at Talladega either given the potential for crashing and additional injury there.

If (and I imagine, when) he was given clearance to return, the plan is for him to start the race in Talladega, then hand it over to Brian Vickers so Hamlin can start collecting points. For those who don’t know, the driver who takes the green flag is credited for the points no matter who is in the car when the checkered flag flies.

Denny Hamlin will have to sit out another week in the No. 11 FedEx Camry. With Talladega next on the schedule, his return does not appear to be imminent.

While I appreciate Hamlin’s tenacity, to me this just doesn’t sound like a good idea. We all know how fast things happen in Talladega and how hard those cars can hit the wall when the cars are hitting 180+ mph. The last thing Hamlin needs is to get caught up in an early wreck and further injure himself. Take the necessary time to heal and get back in the car. Better to lose a few more points over the next few weeks than risk never racing again.

One more thing I want to add about Hamlin … his constant need to go after Logano on Twitter is bordering on childish. When Logano crashed this weekend in Kansas, Hamlin tweeted, “I know Joey felt bad but he doesn’t have to keep falling in the points on my count :) #seeyasoon”.

Is that really still necessary? Logano wasn’t trying to hurt him, let alone knock him out for several weeks. He was simply trying to send a message. Though I don’t agree with Logano’s move in Fontana, I think it’s time Hamlin let it go. This isn’t something that can be taken back, redone, or fixed. Things happen in racing, and Hamlin really needs to realize that and let go of these petty grudges.

I’m sure it’s difficult sitting out of the race and watch someone else drive your car. I bet it absolutely sucks to watch your name drop lower and lower in the standings every week and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. But digitally bouncing with glee at another driver’s misfortune is rather immature given the circumstances. In trying times, you need to be the bigger person, and Hamlin right now is not acting like the veteran driver.

“I thought Paul Wolfe got suspended for the Penske violations in Texas. Why was he still in Kansas?” Alex

Because Penske Racing is appealing the penalties, which means all of the suspensions (including Wolfe, No. 22 crew chief Todd Gordon, car chiefs Jerry Kelley and Raymond Fox, engineers Brian Wilson and Samuel Stanley, and Penske competition director Travis Geisler) have been put on hold.

Keep an eye out for any news on May 1st, which is when Penske Racing will begin their appeal. I highly doubt NASCAR will lessen the penalties, let alone overturn them completely. These penalties were harsh and meant to send a message, and NASCAR won’t want to let other teams think they can get away with it.

Gosh, I’m tired of talking about penalties. Didn’t we have a race this weekend or something?

Now, my question to all of you: At what point do you consider penalties to be acceptable? Do you trust NASCAR with the severity of their punishments?

Connect with Summer!

Contact Summer Bedgood

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Wablofan
04/25/2013 07:47 AM
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“Heavy jackets were aplenty and the hunched over, arms wrapped around your own waste…” Why would holding your poop keep you warm? Ever heard of spellcheck?

spot1
04/25/2013 08:26 AM
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In regards to the penalties on the #20, I guess it’d be somewhat reasonable if the violation meant an advantage. But one connecting rod 3 grams light makes no sort of an an advantage whatsoever. It’s meaningless. I guess Brian France needs a raise in salary or something.

JP
04/25/2013 08:44 AM
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THREE FREAK’N GRAMS.

What a total sham. Nascar deserves the slow death it’s receiving. And at this rate, it might not be that slow after all.

midasmicah
04/25/2013 09:01 AM
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You’ll notice that Hendricks cars very seldom get penalized and when they do, Mr. Middlebrook is there to eliminate the penalities.

Bill B
04/25/2013 09:15 AM
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I’d like to hear Carl Long’s opinion on this penalty.

Steve
04/25/2013 09:31 AM
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If Penske teams penalties hold, this will be another example of the Nascar favoritism towards Hendrick. Both penalties were pretty close to the same infraction, if I’m not mistaken. I’m looking forward to these first appeals.

I’m sure the first will be denied, and then the 2nd appeal will go to Middlebrooks. We will see what kind of integrity the man has or if he is just a Hendrick stooge.

Sal
04/25/2013 09:33 AM
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There has GOT to be a day of reckoning coming soon.

Nascar has become so blatant in their bias. When will enough be enough?

If I were a non-Hendrick driver and won a race, I would run the front and back of the car into the wall, then blow the engine.

Hey, it’s worth a shot anyway. I’m still certain Nascar could fish something out of it though.

I can’t wait to see the “fair and balanced” ruling from one Mr. Middlebrook.

ginav24
04/25/2013 09:49 AM
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Unfortunately spellcheck doesn’t catch homonyms, such as “waste” vs “waist” but proofreading is a mostly lost skill for most writers. I have to admit that error made me think – why should I bother reading the rest of this?

Since I was already on this page, I did continue. Carl Long was banned forever right and JGR is paying a heavy penalty but they are still going to be able to race each week. Funny how $ talks.

So Hamlin thinks it will be a good idea to start in the back at Talladega? Up to him and his doctors but it seems a poor choice to me. I agree that his tweets about Logano don’t show a lot of maturity but then again, was twitter actually developed for mature responses?

Blake
04/25/2013 09:49 AM
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This is too funny.

Read this:

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nascar-from-the-marbles/warped-wednesday-pedal-cars-next-step-021937351—nascar.html

conelly
04/25/2013 10:04 AM
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I just think everyone at NASCAR has lost their minds with all these penalties. I agree, if had been Mr. H’s team, it would be different. Guess NASCAR wants Hendrick cars to win and RCR cars to be field fillers, the rest also rans.

midasmicah
04/25/2013 10:53 AM
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Hey folks. Have you noticed presence of 3 Hendricks cars in the top 5 in drivers’ points? nascar is delusional if they believe this is what the fans want. The way they’re penalizing the competition, soon Hendricks cars will occupy the top four.

JimB
04/25/2013 11:43 AM
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I will first say that I am a big Matt Kenseth fan, so you know my bias. I understand NASCAR’s need to place severe penalties on any car builder who breaks any of the engine rules, even slightly and to no one’s advantage. I don’t see why an infraction like this should have impacted Matt and Jason on this level, since it is clear that neither of them had any knowledge of the faulty part and since, if anything, the faulty part hurt the performance of the engine. Matt had oil temperature issues all day at Kansas. If all of the connecting rods were closer to the same weight, that issue may not have been there. If all of the connecting rods were at or under the 525 gram limit, a horsepower advantage could have been there and it would have been intentional on the part of the engine builder. For that to happen, JGR would have been complicit, but with one rod underweight, the lost HP from weight imbalance would more than make up for any HP gain that could be found by having one rod too light. NASCAR should have penalized the crap out of Toyota Racing Development, builder of the engine, and maybe the engine department at JGR should have been penalized severely. Joe Gibbs has to take responsibility because he buys the engines from TRD. Matt and Jason should have only been put on probation until the end of the year for not being more insistent that all parts on their car be compliant. Any way, being without Jason Ratcliff will be tough for Matt during May and June, but I would be willing to bet that Matt will make the Chase and have at least two more wins under his belt before it starts.

Bill B
04/25/2013 12:50 PM
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JimB,
Then if Stewart Haas had an engine with a problem there would be no penalty. Because “technically” they get their engines from HMS. All I am saying is that you get on a real slippery slope when you don’t hold the team running the car accountable.

Kevin in SoCal
04/25/2013 01:21 PM
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Carl Long was NOT banned forever due to his engine violation. He is not allowed in the Cup garage until he pays the fine. That’s all. Since he cannot earn enough money to pay the fine, its basically a ban, but its not the same as being banned.

fuzzy
04/25/2013 02:15 PM
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RIP Nascrap !!

JER
04/25/2013 02:17 PM
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Nascar needs to automatically stop slamming the crew chiefs for every violation concerning the car. Once upon a time crew chiefs probably knew everything that went on with the cars, but now times have changed. Anyone want to argue that a crew chief now knows about the same as the car owner does about ”everything” on the car. Engineers and computers have long passed up crew chiefs years ago. NASCAR why don’t you just band the #2, #22 an #20 for the next six weeks. Hold the sponsors responsible for violations. Yeah, tell your story to Pennzoil, Miller and Home Depot. Let the sponsors tell NASCAR where to take their show and stuff it.

Earner
04/25/2013 02:44 PM
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Let me say I am also a Matt Kenseth fan…Nascar has no other choice but to completly crush any advantage gained by an illegal engine so this one I can’t fault them for…Who else could they penalize to send the message?..& Denny should do 2 laps (1’s fine)@ Dega & pass it off to vickers…O & Grow Up …

JP
04/25/2013 02:44 PM
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JER,

This is what I’ve been questioning for some time now. Why do the sponsors and Ford and Toyota put up with this without a fight? They are spending a TON of money to be in Nascar.

They must be making a big return on their investment.

Nascar has really gone after Toyota several times since they entered the sport. I’m surprised THEY put up with it.

Bill B
04/25/2013 02:46 PM
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JER,
So, a team could hire someone off the street, have them do something to the car that’s against the rules, and then if discovered fire that person with no one else impacted. That would be too easy. Someone needs to be accountable and it can’t be the guy that cleans the crapper. “Oh Joe, the crapper cleaner, added something to the fuel because he didn’t get a raise and wanted to sabbotage the team”. Ultimately, someone has to be held accountable.

Kevin in SoCal
04/25/2013 03:54 PM
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If a crew member starts a fight with another team, the crew chief is still held accountable for not keeping his crew in line. The same here, the whole team is responsible for the car they bring to the track, not just the guy who built the engine.

Gerry Blachley
04/25/2013 04:01 PM
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Carl Long is one of the things that can not be explained, there is no justus just rules that men in force because they can. please tell me about NASCAR being a family sport again. NASCAR we have NOT forgotten what YOU did to Mr Long.

Gerry Blachley
04/25/2013 04:12 PM
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NASCAR it must be time to visit your ruling on Mr Long ask every one at the drivers meeting for an overall thinking on the ruling and remove the stain, it’ just to long and to harsh

Robert Eastman
04/25/2013 04:27 PM
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I truly believe that this is NASCAR’s attempt to make themselves “look fair and equitable” in their enforcement of the rules. NASCAR KNOWS how STUPID they were in the Carl Long fiasco… SO, now they find a “MINOR infraction” to vilify a major team, thinking this will gain them credibility and placate the fans that know that Carl Long was unjustly destroyed! NASCAR’s Insanity IS Alive and Sick!

Andy
04/25/2013 05:04 PM
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Kyle Busch was right when the said the COT sucked.

And Smoke was right when he compared Nascar to wrestling. Nobody even really talks about the “entertainment cautions” anymore….it’s just accepted.

It’s just so AMAZING to watch Nascar go further and further into the twilight zone. And even more amazing to watch how many can justify it.

Enjoy the circus folks. LOL.

JER
04/25/2013 05:22 PM
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Bill B, You missed my point, and I apologize if I wasn’t clear.

I have no problem with holding “someone” responsible, but crew chiefs are easy targets. If NASCAR wants to play hardball then go after the hard target which is the sponsor. Band the sponsorship of the car for X races. Lets see how well NASCAR can stand up against the big money or perhaps the lack of it, should the sponsors decide to leave the sport.

NASCAR has banned some sponsorships in the past, but Miller, Pennzoil and Home Depot are big enough to tell NASCAR “You need us, we don’t need you.”

Lunar Tunes
04/25/2013 06:25 PM
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Seriously…
“Logano wasn’t trying to hurt him, let alone knock him out for several weeks. He was simply trying to send a message. Though I don’t agree with Logano’s move in Fontana, I think it’s time Hamlin let it go.”

Logano wasn’t trying to send any message! Both of them were simply racing hard to win. Nothing more, nothing less.

Time for EVERYONE to let it go!

And another ‘SERIOUSLY?!’…

Readers getting bent out of shape over a mis-spelled word!? To the point of stopping reading it???

Get over your perfect selves!

Ken
04/25/2013 08:46 PM
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JER, I wonder what would happen if a big sponsor or three did tell “The Brainless One” to stick his phoney show where the sun doesn’t shine. Better yet, if this “Connecting Rod Gate” gets to Mr. Middlebrook and he gives Gibbs the thumbs down, Toyota should walk away, and demand their millions back! I wonder if that would wake Brian up? Naa, Rick will just increase his payment to Brian to compensate the bozzo!

And between you and me, another wake-up call for NASCAR is rapidly approaching. The Australian Supercar series is coming to The Circuit Of The Americas. You know, the series that has race-modified production cars. If that race gets the attention and puts on one of their typical races (and notice I said “race” and not “show”, something Brian can’t differentiate between!), the fallout for NASCAR could devastate Brian’s bank account. It will look good on him!