The National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel will hear Joe Gibbs Racing's appeal on May 8 for severe penalties assessed by NASCAR to Matt Kenseth's No. 20 Sprint Cup Series team for an illegal engine used at Kansas Speedway.
JGR's appeal will be heard by a three-member committee, and it will be conducted at NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. NASCAR handed down penalties to the No. 20 team last Wednesday after officials found one of the connecting rods on the engine used in Kenseth's race-winning Toyota Camry on April 21 at Kansas did not meet the minimum connecting rod weight. The violation was discovered during a secondary post-race inspection of his engine at the R&D center.
Kenseth was penalized with a loss of 50 points. His crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, had been fined $200,000, suspended from NASCAR competition for six points-paying races, as well as next month's all-star event (non-points), and placed on probation until Dec. 31. Car owner Joe Gibbs was docked 50 points as well.
Furthermore, Kenseth's win at Kansas will not earn him bonus points toward eligibility and seeding for this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. His victory there is not credited towards the eligibility for a driver wild card position in the playoffs. He was also stripped of his pole win at Kansas.
The penalty included the owner's license for the No. 20 car being suspended until the completion of the next six point races, making the team ineligible to receive championship car owner points during that period of time. A loss of five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Manufacturer Championship points was assessed to the team.
JGR will not dispute the engine violation during the appeal, but will argue that NASCAR's penalties for the infraction were too severe.
"What we're going to appeal is the severity of the penalties," Gibbs said during a press conference last Friday at Richmond International Raceway. "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, basically what they would say is there is no advantage to having that one light rod in that motor. That's one thing that is very important to me is the intent here was not to get an unfair advantage in any way."
Kenseth called the penalties "grossly unfair" and "borderline shameful."
Toyota Racing Development, which is the engine supplier for JGR, took full responsibility for the engine issue and noted JGR is not involved in the process of selecting parts or assembling engines for its cars.
NASCAR said in its announcement of the penalties that "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." The unapproved rod weighed in roughly three grams under the legal limit.
"It's a part that didn't meet spec," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said at Richmond. "It's not a gray area. There are numbers in the books. If you look at numbers in the books and what's going on in the garage area and across our national series, those numbers for a connecting rod have been in the book since around the time we went to a single-engine rule, which is probably 12 years ago."
Since JGR's appeal date is scheduled for next week, Ratcliff will be allowed to participate in this coming weekend's race activities at Talladega Superspeedway.
Meanwhile, the appeals panel will hear Penske Racing's argument of its penalties on Wednesday. NASCAR issued hefty penalties to both Penske teams after officials discovered unapproved suspension systems and components on Brad Keselowski's No. 2 car and Joey Logano's No. 22 car during inspection before the start of the April 13 race at Texas Motor Speedway.