Matt Kenseth regains some lost ground with appeal of NASCAR penalties

jutter@charlotteobserver.comMay 8, 2013 

NASCAR’s precedent-setting penalties against Joe Gibbs Racing were sharply curtailed on appeal Wednesday.

In a unanimous decision by the three-member National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel, driver Matt Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, saw his suspension cut from seven weeks (six points races plus the all-star race) to one week, and Kenseth had his points penalty reduced from 50 to 12 and will be allowed to use his Kansas win toward Chase bonus points or a wild-card berth.

The panel also rescinded a car owner license penalty assessed to the No. 20 team but did raise the manufacturer points penalty for Toyota from five to seven.

“We believe in our enforcement process,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. “We have to regulate the sport and we have to have some teeth behind it.

“Today is one we disagree with.”

NASCAR originally issued a $200,000 fine and six-week suspension to Ratcliff; docked Kenseth 50 driver points; and suspended the owner’s license of the No.20 car for six weeks after the car failed routine inspection following his Kansas win last month.

Kenseth also was barred from using the win to make the Chase and the pole he won would not count toward eligibility for the 2014 Sprint Unlimited race. Toyota also was docked five manufacturer points.

One of the eight connecting rods in Kenseth’s engine did not meet the minimum weight requirement.

Team owner Joe Gibbs said he would accept Wednesday’s result and not appeal further.

“All of us are glad to get the process over with so we can get back to racing and get focused again,” Gibbs said.

After the ruling, Kenseth moved from 11th to fourth in the Sprint Cup Series standings, 64 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

It was the second consecutive day NASCAR had seen penalties against Cup teams reduced on appeal.

On Tuesday, Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook upheld points penalties and fines against both Penske Racing Cup teams but cut in half the suspensions of seven team members related to violations found before last month’s race at Texas.

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