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No. 20 Team Penalized For Kansas Infraction

Matt Kenseth talks to a crew man of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team. [1]NASCAR announced penalties handed down to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Sprint Cup Series team, after Matt Kenseth’s race-winning Camry failed post-race inspection [2] due to a connecting rod in the engine.

NASCAR found the No. 20 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 NASCAR rule book.

As a result, crew chief Jason Ratcliff has been fined $200,000 and suspended for the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship points events, including the Sprint All-Star Race. He has also been placed on probation until Dec. 31.

Car owner Joe Gibbs has been penalized with the loss of 50 championship car owner points; the first-place finish from the Kansas will not earn bonus points toward the accumulated aggregate car owner points total after the completion of the first 26 events of the current season and will not be credited towards the eligibility for a car owner Wild Card position. Gibbs’ license for the No. 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car suspended for the next six championship points events, which means the car will not receive owner points during that period.

Driver Matt Kenseth was also penalized with the loss of 50 championship driver points; the Coors Light Pole award from Kansas will not be allowed for eligibility into the 2014 Sprint Unlimited; the first place finish from Kansas will not earn bonus points toward the accumulated aggregate driver points total after the completion of the first 26 events of the current season and will not be credited towards the eligibility for a driver Wild Card position.

NASCAR has also penalized the manufacturer with the loss of five manufacturer championship points.

Following the penalty, JGR issued a statement:

Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is aware of the penalty issued by NASCAR today regarding the engine in our No. 20 car used in last week’s Sprint Cup Series race in Kansas. It is our understanding that one of the eight connecting rods on the engine was ruled too light. We are working with our partners at TRD on this issue. In the meantime we will plan to appeal the penalty.

Toyota Racing Development issued a statement:

During NASCAR’s routine post-race tear down of Matt Kenseth’s race-winning car and engine from Kansas Speedway, 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 #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. … 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.

Update: Matt Kenseth spoke with the media regarding the penalty. He said:

I think the penalties are grossly unfair. I think it’s borderline shameful. There’s no argument the part was wrong. They weighed it and it was wrong. However, there is an argument that there certainly was no performance advantage. If you can find any unbiased, reputable, knowledgeable engine-builder and if they saw the facts, what all the rods weighed. The average weight of all the rods was well above the minimum — 2.5 (grams) above the minimum at least. There was one in there that was way heavy. There was no performance advantage, there was no intent, it was a mistake. JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) had no control over it.

Update 2: Joe Gibbs Racing appealed the penalties. After hearing testimony, the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel amended the original penalties assessed by NASCAR. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff’s suspension was reduced to one Sprint Cup Series championship event. He will be on probation for the next three championship events following his reinstatement.

Joe Gibbs and Matt Kenseth had their points penalties reduced to 12 from 50. All other components of their penalties were rescinded.

Toyota had their manufacturer’s points penalty increased from the loss of five points to the loss of seven.

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