Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?
If the answer’s yes, did you try telling the officer, ‘that wasn’t my intent’?
Or maybe you were just a MPH or two over the limit, did you try telling him, ‘I wasn’t speeding that much’?
When he got done laughing at you, did he still write you a ticket? My guess is, he did.
Welcome to NASCAR rule enforcement. The body has very little sympathy for intent or amount, and zero tolerance for infractions related to tires, fuel and engines.
Joe Gibbs Racing found this out the hard way yesterday – not that they shouldn’t have already known. When you move beyond the specified limits and beyond the tolerances provided, it’s likely NASCAR will throw the book at you.
JGR is facing, pending an appeal, a six race suspension and $200,000 fine for crew chief Jason Ratcliff, a loss of 50 driver and owner points, the loss of Kenseth’s win toward the Chase wild card berth, a six week suspension of Joe Gibbs’ owner license and the loss of owner points for the next six weeks thanks to a connecting rod that did not meet weight requirements. Toyota has also been docked five points toward the manufacturer’s championship.
The penalty was reminiscent of the one levied to Carl Long in 2009 after he was found with an illegal engine at the Sprint All Star race. Long was fined $200,000, docked 200 points (the equivalent of 50 points under the current system) and suspended for 12 races.
His suspension was eventually reduced on appeal, but he has been unable to pay the fine and hasn’t worked in the Cup Series since.
Regardless of the claims of ignorance in both cases, there are two general rules that reign supreme: (1) the team is ALWAYS responsible for the equipment it uses, regardless of who/where it comes from; and (2) if the team exceeds tolerances, regardless of the amount, it has broken the rule.
Every team member, owner and driver knows this. And I suspect, at this point, most fans do too.
I understand all the arguments here – the amount that exceeded the tolerance was small; Gibbs didn’t have any control over this; they didn’t do this on purpose. In the end, none of them matter.
NASCAR, in 2013, is a sport of fractions of an inch and thousandths of a pound. Teams will do whatever they have to do, shave whatever they have to shave in order to score that competitive advantage (not saying that happened here). Because of this, the sanctioning body has to work hard to maintain the integrity of the sport and enforce the rule book, regardless of intent.
I sympathize with Gibbs. And if recent decisions are any indication, I suspect the appeals panel will reduce some of the penalties. But at the end of the day, NASCAR did what it had to do – send the message that engines are out of bounds, the Generation 6 car is not to be messed with and when they give you a rule book, they’re not joking.