Matt Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing had chafed against the big penalties levied against them following their Kansas NASCAR Sprint Cup victory, after which Kenseth's Toyota was found to have an illegally light connecting rod (one of eight) in its engine. On Wednesday, an appeal panel largely agreed, significantly lightening the sentences against the team and its personnel.
Crew chief Jason Ratcliff had his suspension cut from six races to just to one race, and the driver and car owner point fines were reduced from 50 points to 12 points each. A $200,000 fine against Ratcliff remains intact, and he will be on probation for the next three Cup events. However, all other penalties against Ratcliff, JGR and Kenseth were rescinded. The decision moves Kenseth from 11th to fourth in points.
"This has been a tough, tough week for everyone and certainly no one wanted this to happen,” Gibbs said after the ruling. “We're committed to make sure that it never happens in the future.
“I want to emphasize, after going through this process, we have great respect for our sport and in particular NASCAR. All of us at Joe Gibbs Racing are committed to being good partners and we want to race with NASCAR forever.
“We're going to work extremely hard with TRD to make sure that this never happens again. Right now, we just want to get back to racing.”
Kenseth posted on Twitter: "Glad to have today behind us so we can get our focus back on racing. I respect NASCAR and the appeals process, I feel like they got it right."
Evidently, the three-man panel felt NASCAR's emphasis on holding teams responsible for illegal parts rather than vendors was overzealous in this case. Toyota, which had accepted full responsibility for the offending part, claiming it had been improperly vetted by an outside supplier, had its manufacturer's points penalty increased from five to seven points by the appeal panel.
The ruling is the second NASCAR penalty reduction in as many days, following a modification to the penalties affecting Penske Racing for its improper suspension modifications at Texas.