This is a big one. Matt Kenseth was penalized 50 points and crew chief Jason Ratcliff was fined $200,000 and suspended six races, among other penalties, after Kenseth's engine failed inspection after his win Sunday at Kansas Speedway
"It is our understanding that one of the eight connecting rods on the engine was ruled too light," Joe Gibbs Racing said in a statement. The team will appeal the penalty.
"The No. 20 car was found to have 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 rule book," NASCAR said in a statement.
In addition to losing 50 points, Kenseth will not receive the three bonus points for the win at the time of the Chase points reset if he makes the Chase. The team was also penalized 50 owner points and the owner's license on the car has been suspended for the next six races, meaning that the car will be ineligible to accrue owner's points. In addition to the fine and suspension, Ratcliff is on NASCAR probation until December 31.
Kenseth started on the pole Sunday and inherited the race lead when a caution flag flew during the race's final pit stop cycle. After sprinting out to a lead on the race's last restart, Kenseth held off Kasey Kahne over the final laps. His pole will also not count towards entry in next year's Sprint Unlimited.
Before the penalty, Kenseth was 8th in the points standings. He's now tied for 14th with Jeff Gordon, 109 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. Because he led the most laps on Sunday, Kenseth received 48 points for the win, so the punishment essentially wipes out the race plus two more points. However, the win will still be noted in the race box score.
Joe Gibbs Racing has won four of the season's eight races. All race-winning engines are inspected and there have been no issues with the first three.
On Tuesday, NASCAR announced that the appeal for the infractions found against the Penske Racing cars at Texas Motor Speedway awould be April 1. The Penske cars were penalized 25 points and had their crew chiefs fined $100,000 and suspended for six races along with other team members. Kenseth may face a similar points penalty, but the fine and crew punishment could be bigger. In 2009, Carl Long was penalized 200 points (under NASCAR's old points system) and fined $200,000 and initially suspended 12 races after his engine was deemed illegal. Long drove for his own team.
Earlier Wednesday, NASCAR announced penalties for Johnny Sauter's Camping World Truck Series team for a fuel cell violation found in pre-race inspection. Sauter, who was the Truck Series points leader, was penalized 25 points and his crew chief Joe Shear was suspended for four races and fined $10,000. Sauter is now 13 points behind teammate Matt Crafton in the points standings.
What do you think about Kenseth's penalty? Was it too severe? Just right? Let us know in the comments.