COMMENTARY | After the penalties waged against Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth, it is evident NASCAR needs to reevaluate its outdated rule book and system of penalization. The severity of the penalties not only is not warranted based on the small infraction that occurred, they are being directed at the wrong people entirely.
Toyota Racing Development has complete control over the engines used by JGR and they should be feeling the brunt of the penalties being handed out. Kenseth's car broke the rules, and the team should receive penalties for that, but they should be toned down greatly from where they are now.
The rule in question was written years ago when teams built their own engines and had complete control over what was being put into their car from week-to-week. At this point in time, NASCAR needs to evaluate whether the responsibility should be taken against the team or the manufacturer of the part in question.
NASCAR has said that it is difficult to hold the manufacturer of the individual parts accountable, but that does not warrant the massive penalty assessed. Especially when the person or organization responsible is right there taking responsibility for the misstep.
Toyota has come out and said that they take full responsibility and the penalty should go against them more than anyone else. The fact that they got a simple 5 point deduction from their manufacturer's championship points, equal to just over half of the points for the win, is crazy.
The issue is even further compounded by the fact that they could make up that points deduction by finishing better than current leader Chevrolet in two races. While Kenseth is left with having to outrace multiple other teams just to gain a small amount on his nearest competitor and the top ten in points.
On top of all this are more misguided penalties toward Kenseth's car owner Joe Gibbs. He not only had 50 points deducted from his owner's points total, but has been restricted from receiving any additional points for six more races. Effectively taking him out of any chance of finishing anywhere near the top of the owner's points and missing out on a great deal of monetary compensation.
The issue of what is happening to Kenseth's crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, is almost as bad as what is happening to Gibbs as well. Ratcliff is definitely responsible for the car and what is being put into it, but there is no reason why he should be getting a penalty in line with what is happening to crew chiefs of cars with much more blatant infractions. Suspending him for six weeks for a piece of the engine that neither him nor any of his crew members are allowed to touch is ridiculous.
The fact that penalty involved an engine is obviously something that will lead some to say that the severity of the penalties is warranted, but not in this day in age with this particular team. This case shows a trend that NASCAR has for taking out the blame on the wrong people when it comes to engine infractions. Carl Long received penalties similar or worse to Kenseth after the 2009 Sprint Showdown. Similarly, Long bought his engine from someone else and felt the brunt of the penalties that have all but taken out of Sprint Cup racing for good.
This all shows that NASCAR is focusing their wrath on all the wrong people while letting the people who are truly at fault skate by with a small slap on the wrist. If anything, the penalties should be almost reversed from where they currently stand. Toyota should be receiving a larger points penalty and be facing possible loss of future points while JGR and Kenseth get the slap on the wrist to tell them to be more aware of what they put in their car.
Matt Fitzgerald is a Las Vegas native that is also a die-hard race fan. He never misses a race and attends as many as he can at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
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