Matt Kenseth won the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway last Sunday but a post race inspection showed a rule violation with the engine of his Toyota Camry.
A connecting rod in the engine of his Toyota weighed 2.7 grams under the minimum requirement hitting Kenseth with a 50 point penalty and dropping him from 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings to 14th. His pole which would have qualified him for the 2014 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway was also disallowed.
In addition to the penalties to Kenseth, crew chief Jason Ratcliff was suspended for six races and fined $200,000. Team owner Joe Gibbs was fined 50 owner points and also had the license of the No. 20 car pulled for six races.
Kenseth was upset at the severity of the penalties for Gibbs and Ratcliff.
“I can’t get my arms around that,” Kenseth said Thursday during a news conference at Richmond International Raceway. “I couldn’t feel any worse. There’s no more reputable, honorable, hardworking guy than them two.”
Kenseth went on to say that the average weight of all eight connecting rods was “well over” the minimum.
“I just think that the penalty is way over the top for that,” he said. “It wasn’t anything trying to gain an advantage. It wasn’t an advantage — it was a mistake. That should have been taken into account.”
Toyota Racing Development president Lee White called the illegal part a mistake on their part. TRG builds the engines for JGR including the one which was used in Kenseth’s car at Kansas.
JGR is planning to appeal the penalty for what Kenseth called “A very dumb mistake.” His hope is that the penalty will be reduced.
“We’ll just go through that and see what happens,” he said. “Whatever the final verdict is we’ll have to live with that and move on.”
“Honestly, I feel I have the strongest race team in the garage,” he said. “If anyone can come back from it and get us in a spot to win the championship, it’s my group.”
Kenseth will compete in Thursday’s late model race at Richmond but made it clear his focus was on his cup car.
“By tomorrow morning, we’re going to be ready,” Kenseth said of Friday’s first practice for Saturday night’s Cup race. “If it’s possible, I think we’re motivated and determined more than ever.”