Until the end of time, Matt Kenseth can say he crossed the finish line first at Kansas Sunday. NASCAR Record Books will say the same. But after a harsh series of penalties announced on Wednesday, should they stand that’s about the only thing Kenseth can hang his hat on after a successful weekend turned sour.
According to multiple reports, officials at the NASCAR R & D Center in North Carolina discovered a connecting rod on Kenseth’s engine, brought in for Kansas post-race inspection weighed three grams less than the minimum weight of 525g. The consequences, announced today are crippling for both driver and team. Kenseth, along with car owner Joe Gibbs have been docked 50 driver and owner points, actually reducing their overall totals heading into Kansas even though the No. 20 car won the race. That lost chunk of points drops Kenseth from eighth to 14th in the standings. More importantly, the win “won’t count” for either bonus points in the Chase or determine postseason eligibility; that means the driver, now in “Wild Card” position is considered to have one win so far this season instead of two.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg on these consequences. Crew chief Jason Radcliffe, fined $200,000 based on the infraction has also been suspended for the next six Sprint Cup points events, along with the All-Star Race. Toyota, whose TRD engine department ultimately supplies the JGR powerplants has had five points deducted from its total in the manufacturer’s championship. And finally, Joe Gibbs himself, already docked 50 owner points has had his license suspended by NASCAR, which means he’s ineligible to accrue owner points for the No. 20 until the next six Sprint Cup Series points races are completed.
Gibbs, NASCAR has clarified will still be able to travel to the racetrack despite a suspended license. In a tersely worded statement, the owner says he’ll appeal the ruling, which violated three parts of the series rulebook. The one most pertinent is Section 20-5.5.3(E) which states only magnetic steel connecting rods, with a minimum weight of 525.0 grams will be permitted. Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) and 12-4J, which gives officials the right to penalize for parts they claim do not conform to NASCAR rules were also cited in the sport’s official release.
Toyota Racing Development’s Lee White, in a statement released early this afternoon took responsibility for the violation.
During NASCAR’s routine post-race tear down of Matt Kenseth’s race-winning car and engine from Kansas Speedway,” he stated, “One of our engine connecting rods weighed in approximately three grams under the legal minimum weight of 525 grams. None of the other seven connecting rods were found to be under the minimum weight. We take full responsibility for this issue with the engine used by the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) team this past Sunday in Kansas — JGR is not involved in the process of selecting parts or assembling the Cup Series engines. It was a simple oversight on TRD’s part and there was no intent to deceive, or to gain any type of competitive advantage. Toyota is a company that was built on integrity, and that remains one of the guiding principles of the company. The goal of TRD has always been — and will continue to be — to build high-performance engines that are reliable, durable and powerful, and within the guidelines established by NASCAR.”
Kenseth, who has led 482 laps this season, two higher than his total last year has been one of the strongest competitiors on the Sprint Cup track in 2013. His engines have also passed several previous inspections.