NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth took questions on Thursday at Richmond International Raceway prior to participating in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown charity race.
He was asked several questions about the unprecedented penalties NASCAR levied on his No. 20 Toyota team on Wednesday:
Q: What was your reaction to the penalties NASCAR announced yesterday? Do you think they were severe? Kenseth: "I think the penalties are grossly unfair. I think it's borderline shameful. There's no argument the part was wrong. They weighed it and it was wrong. However, there is an argument that there certainly was no performance advantage. If you can find any unbiased, reputable, knowledgeable engine-builder and if they saw the facts, what all the rods weighed. The average weight of all the rods was well above the minimum -- 2.5 (grams) above the minimum at least. There was one in there that was way heavy. There was no performance advantage, there was no intent, it was a mistake. JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) had no control over it. Certainly to crush Joe Gibbs like that -- to say they can't win an owner's championship with the 20 this year is just, I can't wrap my arms around that, it just blows me away. And the same with Jason Ratcliff (crew chief). I don't feel bad for myself at all, but for Jason and Joe, I just couldn't feel any worse. There's no more reputable, honest hard-working guys with good reputations more so than those two -- I feel really bad for them."
Q: What affects you the most about the penalties - losing points or damaging your reputation?
Kenseth: "It's not really about me at all, honestly. I think that certainly, you know it depends, everybody is going to look at it different. You're going to get people that know absolutely nothing about the whole situation and kind of cheer or whatever - I can take all that fan backlash - it doesn't honestly bother me really in the slightest. I feel bad for Joe (Gibbs, owner) and Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) the most and our partners as well. Even taking away the pole eligibility and all that stuff. Anybody in the garage, and like I said, any knowledgeable, reputable unbiased engine builder -- they know there was no advantage there. There was probably a disadvantage there if nothing else for the stuff being unbalanced. I don't argue, there was a scale and it says it has to weigh 225 grams and if it weighs 224.99, it's illegal. I don't think any of us have any argument about that. I just think the penalty is way over the top for that. It wasn't anything trying to gain an advantage. It wasn't an advantage and it was a mistake. I think that should have been taken into account."
Q: How do you overcome the penalties and move forward? Kenseth: "Well, I don't think there's any more we can do. I think my team has done an incredible job this year as far as performance. We've ran better than I could have ever dreamed. We don't have all the finishes, but yet we do have two wins. I think it's business as usual. I think we have to -- probably when I walk out of here in 15 minutes or whatever -- pretty much put it behind us and hope the appeals process works and we get some people in there to look at everything that are reasonable and hopefully get the penalties at least reduced some. I think other than that, we put it behind us. Business as usual. I get to work with Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) this weekend and go out and try to win a pole and try to win the race and just go with that attitude every week and just try to do the things we know how to do and keep trying to grow as a race team, and try to get better."