Major news is breaking in the racing world today after the connecting rod in the engine of Kenseth’s winning Kansas car was found to be illegal following the race. The engine is supplied by Toyota Racing Development but Joe Gibbs Racing will be held accountable in the eyes of NASCAR. I expect major penalties much like we saw with Penske Racing following the NRA 500 at Texas; possibly even harsher due to the fact the team raced with it and won.
NASCAR is even very strict when it comes to the engines of these cars. If you remember a few years back, a tremendous fine was handed to Carl Long when he showed up to Charlotte with an over sized motor and the penalty basically ended his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. He was suspended for eight weeks, fined $200,000 and lost 200 pts (equivalent of about 50 today) for having an engine that was 0.17 cubic inches over limit.
With the new Generation 6 car, NASCAR has been more than willing to drop the hammer on these teams and I don’t think it pleases them one bit to find out after someone won the race with an illegal car. The winning car, the second place finisher and a randomly selected one get taken back to the R&D Center each week. This week, that was Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Bobby Labonte. The No.5 and No.47 passed NASCAR’s scrutiny with no issues. The advantage of lighter connecting rods could be that the engine will respond quicker and can turn a higher RPM.
At this time, it is unclear if the team manipulated the connecting rods or exactly how much it was under the minimum weight. NASCAR officials have yet to confirm or deny the violation but they will most likely update the situation later today. This is very surprising to me and caught a lot of people off guard considering we usually hear things like this on Monday or Tuesday.
*As a result of this violation, NASCAR has assessed the following penalties:
· Crew chief Jason Ratcliff has been fined $200,000 and suspended from NASCAR until the completion of the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship points events (a period of time that also includes the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race) and placed on probation until Dec. 31.
· Car owner Joe Gibbs has lost 50 championship car owner points; the first place finish from April 21 at Kansas Speedway 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; has had the owner’s license for the No. 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car suspended until the completion of the next six championship points events, therefore being ineligible to receive championship car owner points during that period of time.
· Driver Matt Kenseth has lost 50 championship driver points; the Coors Light Pole award from April 19 at Kansas Speedway will not be allowed for eligibility into the 2014 Sprint Unlimited; the first place finish from April 21 at Kansas Speedway 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.
· The loss of five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Manufacturer Championship points.
You can follow my twitter account, @ndegroot89 for more updates as this drama with the No.20 team unfolds.