Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Penalties, Penalties, Penalties And Your Reaction To Them

Depending on what part of the country you are in, winter has hung on incredibly long despite the calendar’s insistence that it is, indeed, spring. Last weekend at Kansas Speedway was once of those instances, as freezing temperatures in the morning along with the famous, blustery Kansas wind made walking around the racetrack nearly unbearable. Heavy jackets were aplenty and the hunched over, arms wrapped around your own waste stance was apparent at the coldest points of the day.

Unfortunately, the alternative which was the June race the track held a couple years ago, is frying. Though I hate the cold weather and would rather deal with 100-degree temperatures than sub-zero conditions, spectators aren’t going to have to go the various health centers inside the track to be treated for 30-degree temperatures. This is as opposed to the handful of individuals who were dealing with heat exhaustion when the first Kansas race was held in June.

The problem isn’t the time of year, though. The problem is this unbearably cold and long winter of 2012-2013. As a Kansas native, even I think that having a winterized April is ridiculous and unseasonable for even an unpredictable climate. Most of the time, this is our beginning of spring and the weather is beautiful and refreshing. Instead, it snowed the Monday after the race.

Let’s hope that next year, the weather behaves like it is supposed to.

Now onto your questions.

“So, I come home from work and all hell has broken loose in the NASCAR world. When did Wednesday become penalty day?! Fill me in, please.” William

I’m still trying to piece everything together, William, but here is the gist of the penalties NASCAR announced on Wednesday.

First off was Johnny Sauter’s No. 98 Camping World Truck Series team. – Their fuel cell was taken during the opening day of inspection on Thursday before the trucks were even first on track. He finished fifth in Saturday’s race. – NASCAR announced that the team was in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4K (if in the judgment of NASCAR Officials, race equipment that has been previously verified or previously approved and/or sealed by NASCAR for use in an event, pursuant to sub-section 8-6 and/or 8-12, has been altered, modified, repaired, or changed in any manner); 20B-16 (once a fuel cell or fuel cell components have been certified, modifications of any kind will not be permitted to the fuel cell or fuel cell components); and 20B-16.1B (standard black, safety foam with minimum free-standing height of eight (8) inches, acceptable to NASCAR Officials, and used as provided by an approved fuel cell manufacturer, must be used: Fuel cell safety foam modification.) of the 2013 rule book. – Sauter’s crew chief Joel Shear was fined $10,000, suspended for the next four races, and on NASCAR probation until December 31st. – The team was docked 25 driver and owner points.

However, that penalty pales in comparison to the one Matt Kenseth received: – Kenseth’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota engine failed post-race inspection at NASCAR’s R&D center after his win at Kansas on Sunday. – The failure was as a result of one of the connecting rods not meeting the minimum weight. – The No. 20 team was said to have violated 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. – Crew chief Jason Ratcliff has been fined $200,000 and suspended for the next six points races and the All-Star Race. He is on probation until December 31st. – Kenseth loses 50 driver points and the No. 20 car loses 50 owner points. – The pole will not count towards next year’s Sprint Unlimited – The win will not count towards the bonus points total when the points are reset for the Chase. – The No. 20 car is not eligible to earn owner points for the next six races. – They were docked five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Manufacturer Championship points.

Finally, to clarify a rumor that has been spreading around the Internet, Joe Gibbs himself has not been suspended. Only the owners license for the No. 20 car has been suspended, and that’s for the next six races. It goes without saying that Joe Gibbs Racing will appeal the penalty.

So, yeah, crazy day in the world of racing, and one of the harshest penalties we have seen from NASCAR in a very long time. And we thought Penske was hit hard!

Who totally had his win ruined from this past weekend? “This guy.”

So what did we learn from the JGR penalties? Never, ever, EVER, mess with the engine. It won’t end well for anyone.

Honestly, this one has left me speechless and the penalty speaks for itself. So I’m going to move on to the next question if this one has been sufficiently covered.

“I saw Denny Hamlin say that he was looking to return at Richmond. That’s only a few days away. Any word on that?” Courtney

Well, the short answer to that is, no. Hamlin tweeted as such on Tuesday night, and then later Wednesday afternoon sent out a note that read, “Unfortunately I won’t be racing this weekend at Richmond. It kills me to not be in the car for my team and sponsors but after long discussions with the doctors we have decided to wait on my return back to racing. Thanks to all of my fans who have sent encouraging messages over the last month. I’ll be back in no time.”

Hamlin said at Kansas he was feeling much better than he had in Texas the week before and sounded optimistic about a return in Richmond — but alas that is not to be this weekend, nor likely at Talladega either given the potential for crashing and additional injury there.

If (and I imagine, when) he was given clearance to return, the plan is for him to start the race in Talladega, then hand it over to Brian Vickers so Hamlin can start collecting points. For those who don’t know, the driver who takes the green flag is credited for the points no matter who is in the car when the checkered flag flies.

Denny Hamlin will have to sit out another week in the No. 11 FedEx Camry. With Talladega next on the schedule, his return does not appear to be imminent.

While I appreciate Hamlin’s tenacity, to me this just doesn’t sound like a good idea. We all know how fast things happen in Talladega and how hard those cars can hit the wall when the cars are hitting 180+ mph. The last thing Hamlin needs is to get caught up in an early wreck and further injure himself. Take the necessary time to heal and get back in the car. Better to lose a few more points over the next few weeks than risk never racing again.

One more thing I want to add about Hamlin … his constant need to go after Logano on Twitter is bordering on childish. When Logano crashed this weekend in Kansas, Hamlin tweeted, “I know Joey felt bad but he doesn’t have to keep falling in the points on my count :) #seeyasoon”.

Is that really still necessary? Logano wasn’t trying to hurt him, let alone knock him out for several weeks. He was simply trying to send a message. Though I don’t agree with Logano’s move in Fontana, I think it’s time Hamlin let it go. This isn’t something that can be taken back, redone, or fixed. Things happen in racing, and Hamlin really needs to realize that and let go of these petty grudges.

I’m sure it’s difficult sitting out of the race and watch someone else drive your car. I bet it absolutely sucks to watch your name drop lower and lower in the standings every week and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. But digitally bouncing with glee at another driver’s misfortune is rather immature given the circumstances. In trying times, you need to be the bigger person, and Hamlin right now is not acting like the veteran driver.

“I thought Paul Wolfe got suspended for the Penske violations in Texas. Why was he still in Kansas?” Alex

Because Penske Racing is appealing the penalties, which means all of the suspensions (including Wolfe, No. 22 crew chief Todd Gordon, car chiefs Jerry Kelley and Raymond Fox, engineers Brian Wilson and Samuel Stanley, and Penske competition director Travis Geisler) have been put on hold.

Keep an eye out for any news on May 1st, which is when Penske Racing will begin their appeal. I highly doubt NASCAR will lessen the penalties, let alone overturn them completely. These penalties were harsh and meant to send a message, and NASCAR won’t want to let other teams think they can get away with it.

Gosh, I’m tired of talking about penalties. Didn’t we have a race this weekend or something?

Now, my question to all of you: At what point do you consider penalties to be acceptable? Do you trust NASCAR with the severity of their punishments?

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