Happy Hour: Matt Kenseth and his penalty

You know the drill. Throughout the week you can send us your best questions, jokes, rants and just plain miscellaneous thoughts to happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com or @NickBromberg. We'll post them here, have a good time and everyone's happy. Right? Oh who are we kidding, this is NASCAR. No one is ever happy.

You thought the penalty train in NASCAR was over didn't you? It keeps rolling. Johnny Sauter's 25 point penalty in the Camping World Truck Series seems like a pittance compared to the whopper that was laid down on Matt Kenseth.

On Thursday, Kenseth said that the 50 point penalty and $200,000 fine and six-race suspension for crew chief Jason Ratcliff (among other penalties) was "grossly unfair. Do you agree with him? John leads off Happy Hour this week, and he was accurate in his prediction.

Yikes! Matt Kenseth's race-winning engine failed inspection? This is going to be HUGE. I like Matt and hate to see him in trouble, but NASCAR will have to hand out some severe penalties. Considering the seriousness of the Team Penske penalties, over a rear-end issue I still don't understand, and the fine and suspension Carl Long had a few years ago, what does Matt Kenseth and JGR face? This is like a lose-lose situation to me; I don't want to see Matt suspended or anything, but if the penalties aren't severe, NASCAR's credibility takes another pounding.

This is probably not going to be the popular opinion but I think NASCAR did the right thing with Kenseth.

Yes, I know NASCAR's rulebook is written pencil but If they really want teams to stop "bending the rules". They need to make the risk larger than the potential reward. If the top teams start finding themselves in serious trouble, like potentially missing the chase, because of rule violations. I think you will see less instances of teams at any level trying to "push the envelope".
- Darrell

Hey, is NASCAR being heavy handed with the 20 team or what? One connecting rod is 3 grams too light, which does not give an advantage. All the other connecting rods are within spec. Seems not to be intentional, or else all the rods would be too light. I understand NASCARs stance, but the penalties to Kenseth, JGR, Toyota, and crew chief seem harsh for the crime if there was one.

NASCAR is the worst officiated of all the major sports
- Dean

1. I think in the last 2 or 3 weeks Nascar has done more damage to its on-track product than any of the drivers could bashing the Gen6. I am baffled by the severity of these penalties. I understand Nascar wants to send a message about complying with rules, but docking the #20 team so severely for a part that EVERYBODY admits had no impact on performance is so ridiculous I don’t even know what to say. They docked the #20 team more than the Penske 2/22, a situation where you could assume the rear end housing would impact the performance of the car. Wouldn’t the other teams be super concerned about stuff like this? That any tiny accidental error would earn them a Nascar b****slap?

2. The Danica/Gilliland “spat” is so ridiculous. Everything she says is news – but I have listened to a scanner long enough to know that she didn’t say anything different than what all the drivers say during the race. Let’s face it – nobody cares that they were “battling” for 26th place. If she doesn’t like how she’s raced at the back of the pack, wait until she gets to the front. That said, I thought David’s response was awesome – it was blunt, direct and ended the issue right there. I loved it.
- Sue

This is setting up to be a fascinating appeal. From everything that I understand, it was a mistake that would have had no positive impact on the performance of Kenseth's engine. If anything, it could have hindered the engine because the lighter rod would have been out of balance with the other seven.

But still, dang. It's a big penalty. I know that NASCAR can't deal in the gray area of intent and they've previously laid down a heavy line when it comes to engine violations, so it wasn't necessarily a surprise. That said, how does this go in appeal? The mistake has been admitted and apologized for, but because there seems to be no intent or performance advantage, does that limit the penalty?

Also, how does Ratcliff's suspension hold up in the appeal? Given that the engine was made and installed by Toyota, the only way for the team to know that the connecting rod was too light would be to take the engine apart and weigh the pieces. Is a six week suspension unfair?

The Penske penalty appeal is set to be Wednesday, and Kenseth's will likely be a week later. To those of my NASCAR media brethren who will be staking out the R&D Center over the next couple weeks, I hope the weather is nice, the coffee is plentiful and the waits aren't interminable.

And on Danica vs. David, I'll say this: they're probably going to find themselves near each other at some point Saturday night. That is all.

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