Just when things were going great for Matt Kenseth, crew chief Jason Ratcliff and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing squad, they got a significant setback in the form of penalties from NASCAR.
Penalties were handed down to the No. 20 team Wednesday as a result of rule violations discovered in the post-race engine inspection following Kenseth's win last Sunday at Kansas Speedway, conducted at the NASCAR Research and Development Center. Kenseth's car was found to have violated various rules including: 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 assessed the following penalties:
• Crew chief Ratcliff has been fined $200,000 and suspended from NASCAR until the completion of the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship points events (a period of time that also includes the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race).
• Car owner Joe Gibbs has lost 50 championship car owner points; the first place finish from April 21 at Kansas Speedway will not earn bonus points toward the accumulated aggregate car owner points total after the completion of the first 26 events of the current season and will not be credited towards the eligibility for a car owner Wild Card position; has had the owner's license for the No. 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car suspended until the completion of the next six championship points events, therefore being ineligible to receive championship car owner points during that period of time.
• Kenseth has lost 50 championship driver points; the Coors Light Pole award from April 19 at Kansas Speedway will not be allowed for eligibility into the 2014 Sprint Unlimited; the first place finish from April 21 at Kansas Speedway will not earn bonus points toward the accumulated aggregate driver points total after the completion of the first 26 events of the current season and will not be credited towards the eligibility for a driver Wild Card position.
• The loss of five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Manufacturer Championship points.
JGR said in a brief statement that it intends to appeal the penalties.
"It is our understanding that one of the eight connecting rods on the engine was ruled too light. We are working with our partners at TRD [Toyota Racing Development] on this issue," the statement read. In the meantime we will plan to appeal the penalty."
TRD accepted responsibility, claiming that the offending connecting rod was from an outside vendor.
"No one is intentionally going to make con rods light, particularly one out of seven," Toyota Racing Development boss Lee White told the Sporting News. "I guarantee you there is no performance gain because of this oversight.”