NASCAR announced that Joe Gibbs Racing’s Nos. 11, 18, and 20 teams have been penalized for rules violations  found before the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
The three JGR crew chiefs were each fined $50,000 and placed on probation until the end of the calendar year. All three car chiefs along with JGR’s senior vice president of racing operations were also placed on probation until the end of the year.
JGR brought unapproved oil pans to the track on Friday. A typical oil pan weighs about four pounds, while the JGR oil pans weighed between 20 and 30 pounds.
Some said that the heavy oil pans would allow the teams to remove weight elsewhere in the car and put it low on the front of the car, which could provide a handling advantage.
In my opinion, NASCAR is getting soft with their fines this season. Remember in 2006 when Chad Knaus was ejected from Daytona Speedweeks? He had a device that raised the rear window of Jimmie Johnson’s car, giving it an aerodynamic advantage in qualifying. How about in 2005 when Todd Berrier was suspended for four weeks and fined $25,000 for doctoring a fuel cell on Kevin Harvick’s car at Las Vegas.
A $50,000 fine may be a bit stiff for the crew chiefs, but probation is basically a slap on the wrist. It’s NASCAR’s way of saying, “We’ll be watching you.” But, beyond that, it’s really not a penalty.
I think they should have received a points penalty. I think they should have lost owner’s points, and maybe even driver points. It would be different if their oil pans were a pound or two heavier than usual. But 20 to 30 pounds? That was obviously done on purpose in an attempt to give the JGR cars an unfair advantage.
A move like this is unnecessary for the JGR cars. As we saw this weekend at Michigan, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch didn’t need any help making their cars faster.
Every team tries to bend the rules to get any advantage they can. It’s the nature of the sport. But, if NASCAR wants to change that perception, they should make the penalties stiffer, including raising fines.
In this particular case, I think the fines were slightly fair, but not as high as I would have liked to see.