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A day after being stripped of his Kansas win, Matt Kenseth called the massive penalties "grossly unfair."
Matt Kenseth earned some of the heaviest sanctions in NASCAR history after failing a post-race engine inspection in Kansas.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
RICHMOND — Normally, Matt Kenseth is one of the most easygoing nomads of the huge traveling circus known as NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.
Cool. Calm. Collected. That’s Kenseth in a nutshell.
Well, the 2003 Cup champion sounded like a bitter man Thursday at Richmond International Raceway.
Speaking publicly for the first time in the wake of the severe penalties levied 24 hours earlier by NASCAR against him and his Joe Gibbs Racing Team, Kenseth labeled the sanctions “grossly unfair” and “borderline shameful.”
In one of the largest smackdowns in its history, NASCAR stripped Kenseth of everything but the trophy from his Sunday victory at Kansas after his engine failed a post-race inspection. Kenseth was penalized 50 driver points in the standings — he earned 48 for the victory — and NASCAR took away the three bonus points he earned for the victory.
As a result, Kenseth plummeted from eighth to 14th in the Cup standings. Moreover, his second win of the season, which would have virtually locked up a spot in the season-ending Chase, doesn’t count toward his eligibility in the final 10-race shootout for the national crown.
In addition, the stock car sanctioning body suspended Gibbs’ license for the next six races, meaning he won’t earn car owner points during the span. Plus, Gibbs was docked 50 car owner points. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff was fined $200,000 and placed on probation until the end of the year.
The team plans to appeal the penalty to the NASCAR appeals panel. A date for the hearing has not been announced.
Kenseth’s engine was determined to have a connecting rod in the engine that did not meet the minimum weight requirement.
The engine was put together by Toyota Racing Development in Costa Mesa, Calif.
The connecting rocket in question failed to meet NASCAR’s minimum weight by 2.7 grams, or 1/10th of an ounce, Kenseth said.
“There’s no argument the part was wrong. They weighed it and it was wrong,” Kenseth said. “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 so I mean there’s no performance advantage.
“There was no intent, it was a mistake, JGR had no control over it. Certainly to crush Joe Gibbs like that and say he can’t win an owner’s championship with the 20 [car] this year is just … I just can’t wrap my arms around that, it just blows me away.
“And the same with Jason Ratcliff. I don’t feel bad for myself at all. But for Jason and Joe I just couldn’t feel any worse. There are no more reputable, honest, hard-working guys with good reputations more so though than those two.”
When asked what was worse, the loss of points or the possible damage to his sparking clean reputation, Kenseth shook his head and said: “It’s not really about me at all, honestly. Everybody is going to look at it different. You’re going to get people that know absolutely nothing about the whole situation and kind of cheer or whatever. I can take all that fan backlash.
“In the end, I just think the penalty is way over the top. It wasn’t anything trying to gain an advantage. It wasn’t an advantage and it was a mistake … a very bad mistake, a very dumb mistake. I think that should have been taken into account.”
When asked if he had hope of a positive response from the appeals panel, Kenseth said: “I don’t know. I’ve never been through it so I honestly don’t know. That’s the hope, that’s why it’s setup. See what happens and see what the final verdict is. We’ll have to live with that and move on.”
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.
Keselowski said Thursday that NASCAR has broken badly when it comes to its penalty box.
“It takes a lot to really surprise me nowadays, whether it was the penalty we received the past week or the one that happened to the Gibbs group,” the defending Cup champion said. “I understand both sides, in a sense, but then again I don’t. I think it’s really tough.
“What the sport really lacks right now is a way for us to curb fair play — balance the fair play that the sport needs so that our fans can really relate to it without presenting this — I don’t want to call it an illusion — but presenting this almost like a façade as though there’s cheating in the sport.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that when you look at Matt’s issue the pieces and the parts were not that influential to the performance, and probably didn’t win him the race. I think anyone could probably say that, but, then again, from NASCAR’s side, they know that if you give an inch, you’ve got to give a mile.”
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