RICHMOND, Va. -- Joe Gibbs Racing is sticking by its engine manufacturer, even in the wake of some of the most severe penalties in recent memory.
JGR's No. 20 team was hammered with sanctions from NASCAR this week after a connecting rod in the engine Matt Kenseth used to win last weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Kansas Speedway proved to be lighter than allowed. The penalties were sweeping, affecting the driver (loss of 50 points and a victory toward wild card qualification in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup), the crew chief ($200,000 fine and six-week suspension) and even the owner himself (six-week freeze on owner points).
Friday at Richmond International Raceway, Gibbs didn't argue that a penalty was deserved, but said his organization would appeal the severity of the punishment to the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel. And he reiterated his support of Toyota Racing Development, which builds Sprint Cup engines for JGR, including the one in question.
"We have a great partner in TRD," Gibbs said. "? NASCAR is a big deal for us, and a big deal for TRD. This is what we live. And through the process over these six years, at different times, we've stood behind them as we've gone through something, in support, and (been) there with them. And at different times they've been behind us. And that's what good partners do. We think we have a great partnership with them. We're going to stand together and work our way through this, and try and handle it the right way. We believe that we're going to be together for a long time."
Although TRD has provided support to JGR since it switched manufacturers to Toyota from Chevrolet in 2008, Gibbs built its own engines until turning that task over to TRD in 2012. According to TRD, the connecting rod in question came from a vendor the company has used since last fall, and measured 2.7 grams under the minimum allowable weight of 525 grams. There were no similar issues with the seven other rods in Kenseth's engine from Kansas, or in any other TRD engines torn down by NASCAR this season.
"They're on top of, I feel like, everything," Gibbs said of TRD. "That's one reason it surprised us so much that this happened. We realize the fact it did happen. There is going to be a penalty. We're not arguing that fact. We had a light rod. But I think the intent was not to enhance our position there. But I think the people there are very, very good. The quality control, this was one that just slipped through there. You hate that, but it does happen."
Although JGR continues to build its own engines for the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Gibbs said this incident would not tempt his organization to once again manufacture its Sprint Cup engines in-house, as it did through the 2011 campaign.
"We have no intention of bringing our motor (program) back," Gibbs said. "We have a great partnership with TRD. As a matter of fact, we worked extremely hard and long in that process. And we've gone through some tough things in there, we did last year. But we are committed to each other. I think we have some of the most professional people in all of sports as partners there at TRD. ? We have a great team and a great relationship, so we have no intention of bringing that back in-house."
Gibbs would not specify exactly which part of the penalty he felt was too severe, preferring to save that argument for the three-member appeals board. "I don't think that's something we want to talk about now or here," he said. But he emphasized that the infraction did not provide Kenseth a competitive advantage.
"We know there's going to be a penalty for that," Gibbs said. "What we're going to appeal is the severity of the penalties. In looking at that motor, and where all the connecting rods were placed and the weight of all the connecting rods, when you have motor experts look at it, what they would say is, there is no advantage to having that one light rod in that motor. That's one thing that's very important to me is, the intent here was not to get an unfair advantage in any way. That's very important to me."
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