CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – In one of the largest penalties in history, NASCAR stripped Matt Kenseth of everything but the trophy from his victory at Kansas after his engine failed a post-race inspection.
NASCAR said Wednesday one of the eight connecting rods in the engine of the No. 20 Toyota did not meet the minimum weight requirement. Although it was potentially a quality control issue by engine provider Toyota Racing Development – and one that gave no advantage to Kenseth in Sunday’s race – NASCAR levied a severe penalty against a Sprint Cup team for the second week in a row.
Kenseth was stripped of 50 driver points in the standings – he earned only 48 points for the victory – and NASCAR also erased the three bonus points he earned for the win that would have been applied in seeding for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. In addition, the victory will not be credited toward his eligibility for a wild card berth in the Chase.
So, although Kenseth has two wins on the year, the Kansas win does not count in any form toward his Chase eligibility. Kenseth also lost his pole award, which could hurt his eligibility for next year’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race.
NASCAR suspended crew chief Jason Ratcliff for six races, fined him $200,000 and placed him on probation until the end of the year.
And in a rare move, car owner Joe Gibbs had his owner’s license suspended for the next six races and he won’t earn car owner points during that time. He also was docked 50 car owner points. Toyota, which supplies the JGR engines through Costa Mesa, Calif.-based TRD, also lost five points in the manufacturer standings.
The penalty to Kenseth, who held off Kasey Kahne of Hendrick Motorsports to earn his second win of the season, dropped him from eighth to 14th in the standings.
JGR said it would appeal the penalty.
“It is our understanding that one of the eight connecting rods on the engine was ruled too light,” the statement said. “We are working with our partners at TRD on this issue.”
Lee White, president of TRD, said the connecting road was three grams underweight and JGR had nothing to do with the mistake.
“We take full responsibility for this issue with the engine. JGR is not involved in the process of selecting parts or assembling the Cup Series engines,” White said. “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.”
The Kenseth penalties come on the heels of NASCAR penalizing Penske Racing for using parts it said were unapproved in the rear suspension of its cars at Texas. NASCAR docked 25 points each from defending champion Brad Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano, fined the crew chiefs $100,000 each and suspended seven Penske employees for six races. Penske Racing’s appeal is scheduled for May 1.
NASCAR is far stricter about engine infractions and severely punished the last violator, Carl Long, who was found to have an illegal engine at the 2009 All-Star Race. Long was docked 200 points – which would be about 50 points under the current points system – fined him $200,000 and suspended him for 12 races.
His suspension was reduced to eight races on appeal, but Long has said he is unable to pay the fine and can’t work in Sprint Cup until he settles the debt.
NASCAR has stripped a driver of Chase bonus points once before, in 2008 when Carl Edwards lost 10 bonus points under an older scoring system for not having a cover on his oil tank after a win at Las Vegas. The victory stood, but Edwards was not able to carry the 10 bonus points into the Chase. His crew chief was also suspended six races.