CHARLOTTE — In one of the largest penalties in history, NASCAR stripped Matt Kenseth of everything but the trophy from his victory at Kansas after his engine failed a post-race inspection.
NASCAR said Wednesday one of the eight connecting rods in the engine of the No. 20 Toyota did not meet the minimum weight requirement. Although it was potentially a quality control issue by engine provider Toyota Racing Development — and one that gave no advantage to Kenseth in Sunday’s race — NASCAR levied a severe penalty against a Sprint Cup team for the second week in a row.
Kenseth was stripped of 50 driver points in the standings — he earned 48 points for the victory — and NASCAR also erased the three bonus points he earned for the win that would have been applied in seeding for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. In addition, the victory will not be credited toward his eligibility for a wild card berth in the Chase.
So, although Kenseth has two wins on the year, the Kansas win does not count toward his Chase eligibility. Kenseth also lost his pole award, which could hurt his eligibility for next year’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race.
NASCAR suspended crew chief Jason Ratcliff for six races, fined him $200,000 and placed him on probation until the end of the year.
And in a rare move, car owner Joe Gibbs had his owner’s license suspended for the next six races and he won’t earn car owner points during that time. He also was docked 50 car owner points. Toyota, which supplies the JGR engines through Costa Mesa, Calif.-based TRD, also lost five points in the manufacturer standings.
The penalty to Kenseth, who held off Kasey Kahne of Hendrick Motorsports to earn his second win of the season, dropped him from eighth to 14th in the standings.
JGR said it would appeal the penalty.
Lee White, president of TRD, said the connecting road was three grams underweight and JGR had nothing to do with the mistake.
The Kenseth penalties come on the heels of NASCAR penalizing Penske Racing for using parts it said were unapproved in the rear suspension of its cars at Texas.
Hamlin not cleared to race at Richmond
Denny Hamlin has not been cleared to race at his home track in Richmond as he had hoped.
Hamlin sustained a compression fracture of a vertebra in his lower back in a last-lap accident at California on March 24. Doctors said he would miss at least five races, but Hamlin hoped to return early to race at Richmond, where he is a two-time winner.
Daytona, Talladega re-enforcing crossover gates
NASCAR’s two fastest tracks are re-enforcing crossover gates in the wake of the Feb. 23 accident at Daytona International Speedway that injured nearly 30 spectators.
Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway announced that the high-banked tracks are installing additional cables at the crossover gates, which allow fans to move between the grandstands and the infield before and after races. The tracks also are adding supplemental tethers between the gate frame and support posts.