Darlington and Whatnot

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Darlington and Whatnot

Post by Swiss Miss on Thu May 09, 2013 8:50 am

JOE GIBBS RACING PENALTIES REDUCED IN APPEAL

CONCORD, N.C. -- The majority of the penalties against Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team of driver Matt Kenseth were reduced Wednesday by a three-member appeals board.

In a case heard at the sanctioning body’s Research and Development Center, the panel ruled for the most part in favor of JGR for an engine infraction discovered following Kenseth’s April 21 Cup win at Kansas Speedway.

After a meeting that lasted more than six hours, the panel issued the following changes to NASCAR’s original penalties:

• Kenseth’s loss of 50 championship driver points was reduced from 50 points to 12; all other penalties were rescinded, meaning Kenseth’s Kansas win will count toward his total should he qualify for this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The ruling also allows the victory to apply toward wild-card eligibility for the Chase.

• Joe Gibbs’ loss of 50 championship car owner points was also reduced from 50 to 12 and the suspension of his car owner’s license was rescinded.

• While crew chief Jason Ratcliff’s fine of $200,000 was not altered, the panel chose to reduce his suspension from six events to one. He will, however, be on probation following his reinstatement through the completion of the next three points events.

• The panel increased the loss of manufacturer points for Toyota from five to seven.

Members of the NASCAR Stock Car Racing Commission appeals panel included Denis McGlynn, CEO of Dover Motorsports, former team owner Jack Housby, and Mark Arute, GM and COO at Stafford (Conn.) Speedway.

“This has been a tough, tough week for everyone and certainly no one wanted this to happen,” Gibbs said after the ruling was announced. “We’re committed to make sure that it never happens in the future.

“I want to emphasize, after going through this process, we have great respect for our sport and in particular NASCAR. All of us at Joe Gibbs Racing are committed to being good partners and we want to race with NASCAR forever.

“We’re going to work extremely hard with TRD to make sure that this never happens again. Right now, we just want to get back to racing.”
Kenseth echoed the sentiment of relief from his Twitter account: "Glad to have today behind us so we can get our focus back on racing. I respect NASCAR and the appeals process, I feel like they got it right."
Said NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp: "Our sport has a due process system in place that has served the sport very well for more than 65 years. That due process resulted in this decision here today. While we are disappointed in today’s outcome, we stand firmly behind our inspection process. The inspection of engines, and engine parts and pieces has always been regarded as the Holy Grail throughout the industry. That, along with fuel and tires.

"And in violations such as these, we have no other recourse in the reinforcement process than to penalize the team owner and team members. That’s how our system works. The responsibility of such infractions fall on their shoulders. Our intensity and approach to inspecting engines will not change. We take this ruling and we move on to Darlington."

Inspection of the No. 20 team’s engine at the R&D center following the STP 400 revealed one of eight connecting rods measured approximately two grams below the minimum weight of 525 grams specified in the NASCAR rulebook.

JGR, which competes with manufacturer support from Toyota, uses engines supplied by Toyota Racing Development (TRD) out of Costa Mesa, Calif.

The points penalty originally dropped Kenseth, the 2003 series champion, from eighth to 14th in the points standings. In the two races since Kansas, Kenseth rose to 11th in points with top-10 finishes at Richmond and Talladega.

The bump in points will put Kenseth fourth in the latest driver standings behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

PENALTIES REDUCED ON PENSKE RACING'S FINAL APPEAL

CONCORD, N.C. -- It wasn’t a victory for Roger Penske, but the car owner certainly seemed pleased with the outcome.

Penske on Tuesday made his final appeal regarding penalties assessed to the teams of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano for violations April 13 at Texas Motor Speedway, and Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook slashed the suspensions of seven crew members from six points races to two. Middlebrook upheld 25-point deductions to the drivers and $100,00 fines to the crew chiefs, but trimmed four weeks off suspensions that will now end prior to the June 2 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Dover International Speedway.

“Obviously, I’m very happy with the outcome,” Penske said at the NASCAR Research and Development Center. “As you know, this sport has been built on innovation. All of us try to innovate in areas that are not defined in the rule book. We were in that area. … To me, it’s past it now. We’ve moved on. I have to say again the process was very fair and equitable that NASCAR was able to provide for Penske Racing and our whole team.”

Per the Sprint Cup Series Rule Book, Middlebrook’s decision is final. “That’s his call, and we respect that process,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. “And we believe that it’s a just process that not only NASCAR has, but the teams have, for sure.”

Last week, three members of the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel -- Pocono Raceway president Brandon Igdalsky, Bowman Gray Stadium operator Dale Pinilis, and former NASCAR executive Paul Brooks -- unanimously upheld penalties stemming from the rear-end housings of the Penske cars, which were confiscated prior to the Texas event. As set forth in the rule book, Penske was able to make a final plea to Middlebrook, who in his relatively brief time as appeals chief, has made a habit of amending penalties.

He did it again Tuesday, cutting the suspensions of Keselowski’s crew chief Paul Wolfe, Logano’s crew chief Todd Gordon, team competition director Travis Geisler and four other crewmen from six points races to two. Under the original penalty, they would have been forced to sit out until the June 29 event at Kentucky. Now, they’ll miss this weekend’s event at Darlington Raceway as well as the Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“To me,” Penske said, “it will be business as usual at Darlington.”

The final appeal began at noon ET and lasted roughly three hours, with Middlebrook hearing separately from John Darby, NASCAR’s managing director of competition, and a Penske group that included Penske, team president Tim Cindric, executive vice president Walt Czarnecki, Wolfe, Gordon and Geisler. Middlebrook also reviewed last week’s initial appeal. The Chief Appellate Officer then called both sides into the room for a final discussion before making his decision.

To Penske, the most constructive part of the final appeal was being able to debate the infraction with Darby, who he said supplied him with specifics rather than sections of the rule book.

In the initial appeal, “we were given only specific titles in the rule book and the areas where they felt where we didn’t comply,” Penske said. “The conversation with Darby was very professional on both sides, and we had the opportunity to discuss our situation and place our position on the facts that we had. … To me, I think it was a good outcome for everyone.”

The violations stemmed from infractions in rear-end housings, which have been under scrutiny since last season, and prompted a rushed change-out of equipment in the Penske cars before the Texas race. Penalties followed days later, with NASCAR determining that the rear-end setups violated sections of the rule book pertaining to the correct size of mounting holes, and limitations on movement or realignment of suspension parts beyond normal rotation or travel.

“We drew a clear line last year with the rear-end housing, and said the science projects had gone on long enough,” Tharp said. “… It was something that we felt that the penalty, the enforcement behind the penalty, was warranted.”

Middlebrook has a history of unpredictable rulings, having now amended penalties in five of the six cases he’s heard since being appointed to the position by NASCAR President Mike Helton in early 2010. Before the Penske verdict, his most notable major decision involved the No. 48 car of Jimmie Johnson, who was docked 25 points while crew chief Chad Knaus was fined $100,000 and suspended six weeks for C-posts that failed inspection prior to the Daytona 500 last year. Middlebrook overturned the point deduction and suspension, while leaving the fine intact.

Tuesday fit that pattern. The reduced suspensions affect not only Wolfe, Gordon and Geisler, but also Keselowski’s car chief Jerry Kelley and engineer Brian Wilson, as well as Logano’s car chief Raymond Fox and engineer Samuel Stanley. The suspended personnel had been able to work while the appeal process was under way, although the point deductions went into effect immediately. Keselowski, who was second before the penalty, is currently fifth in the Sprint Cup standings. Logano was ninth before the penalty, and is now 18th.

“This is an innovating sport, and I can tell you the other 42 cars are out there innovating every day,” Penske said. “We’re going to continue to look at areas we can work in that we feel are within the rule book, and obviously I don’t want to get to the edge NASCAR felt we were in this particular situation, but we’ve got to be competitive in order to win. There are some very creative guys we meet every Sunday in NASCAR.”

The ruling isn’t likely to impact the manner in which NASCAR polices the sport. “There really aren’t any winners or losers here,” Tharp said. “I really don’t think there are. But it’s out responsibility to regulate the sport, and when we see things that are going on in the garage that we feel like we need to step in and rein back some, we’re going to do that. The teams know that.”

Wednesday brings another plea before the appeals panel, this one from Joe Gibbs Racing, which will argue penalties levied against the No. 20 team for a connecting rod in Matt Kenseth's race-winning engine at Kansas that was lighter than the minimum allowable weight. Kenseth was docked 50 points for that infraction, while crew chief Jason Ratcliff was suspended six weeks and fined $200,000, and Gibbs had his owners' license frozen for six weeks.

The connecting rod in question was manufactured by a vendor and placed in an engine built by Toyota Racing Development, which has said the violation was not an attempt to gain a competitive edge, and did not provide one. As is the case with the suspended Penske crewmen, Ratcliff can work until the appeal process is complete, although the point deduction has already gone into effect. Should the three-person panel uphold those penalties, Gibbs also has the option of a final plea to Middlebrook.




The Favorites

Denny Hamlin has a knack for racing with adversity. In 2010, he underwent knee surgery and immediately returned to the car. He struggled at Phoenix that spring due to mechanical issues, but quickly won five of the next 10 races. Because it is so tough, Darlington would seem to be an unlikely place to mount a comeback, but Hamlin is ideally suited to this track. He is the only driver with top-10 finishes in his last three races. In fact, he won the 2009 Southern 500 and finished second last year. Seven of his eight starts at Darlington ended in top-10 finishes, and he will probably add another.

Martin Truex Jr. scored his first Darlington top-five last year, but he is still a driver worth watching. In seven career attempts, he has finished outside the top 15 only one time as the result of crash damage and he has swept the top 20. He is not a particularly strong qualifier on this track, and in his seven attempts he has finished better than he started in every race, which means he will earn positive place differential points in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game. With an average improvement of 13 positions, he is liable to earn a lot of points in that category.

Traditionally, Kenseth has not been particularly strong at Darlington, but in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing his old records need to be set aside. He runs strong on tracks where his current teammates excel, and both Hamlin and Kyle Busch finished in the top five there last year. Kenseth also has a ton of momentum on his side, with dominant performances at Kansas and Talladega in the past three weeks. His only career top-five at Darlington came in the 2006 Dodge Charger 500, but that statistic is bound to get updated this week.

Dark Horses

Gordon dominated Darlington once upon a time and that is not a fairy tale buried in the annals of history. From 2004 though 2010, he scored one victory, another pair of runner-ups, and had an average finish of better than third. He has been strong there throughout his career, and he scored five victories and had a worst finish of third in a span of eight races from 1995 through 1999.

Last week was a profile in determination for Gordon. After sustaining damage in the first "Big One" crash of the Aaron's 499, he spent much of the day a lap off the pace. He got the Free Pass when the sun was low on the horizon and with laps winding down, only to get caught up in the second "Big One." And still, he finished the race among the lead pack in 11th to give him his third consecutive result of 11th through 13th. This week, he will be even stronger.

When Joey Logano went behind the wall on Lap 143 of the Aaron's 499 with an engine failure, he extended a seven-race streak in which he has alternated a top-five finish with one outside the top 15. Patterns can be meaningful when they become that long, but that is not the only reason to recommend him. This week, Penske Racing South had their final appeal of the penalties that resulted from NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway last month and Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook reduced the crew chief suspension from six points’ races to two. Logano has been running extremely well all season, and this boost to the team’s morale is the intangible he needs to score another top-five.

Underdogs

Last week was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s best chance to regain the momentum he experienced in the first five races of the season. He is one of the best restrictor-plate superspeedway racers and he challenged for a top-five during the afternoon, but ultimately he was nudged out of the draft and finished 17th. As good as the first five races of 2013 were with an average of 4.4, his average during the last five events has dropped precipitously to 19.2 and it is taking a while for his current performance to drop his salary cap to an acceptable level.

Martin traditionally runs well in weeks following his mini vacations, but that statistic is at odds with his recent Darlington record. In his first season with Hendrick Motorsports, he won the 2009 edition of this race after starting 12th, but he was far less successful in the two races that followed with a 16th and 19th. While running part time with Bobby Ginn and Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2007 and 2008, he also finished outside the top 10 in both races, and last year in a limited schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing, he could manage only a 20th-place result.
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Re: Darlington and Whatnot

Post by sangria on Thu May 09, 2013 9:30 am

Woot!!!!!

Thanks, Cocoa.......Glad the final appeal went well, for Penske....hate that they stood firm, on the point deductions, but the suspensions were a big deal!!!

JGR pretty much, came out, smelling like a rose..... voodoo
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Re: Darlington and Whatnot

Post by Swiss Miss on Thu May 09, 2013 9:34 am

Kyle Petty, Jeff Hammond And Tom Jensen React To JGR NASCAR Appeals Ruling

NASCAR Race Hub co-hosts Steve Byrnes and Danielle Trotta interviewed Petty and Hammond for the show, while SPEED.com Editor-in-Chief Tom Jensen offered his thoughts afterward.

Following are their reactions:

On the ruling…

“I think this is a good thing, showing how that NASCAR has come a long ways, at least in their appeals process. They threw the book at Joe Gibbs Racing, based on the way they had the rulebook written. But fortunately for Joe Gibbs, there is a process and people look at it – and maybe they aren’t as involved in the sport as Gibbs and some of the folks at NASCAR – so they had an opportunity, as an outside source, to plead their case and say, ‘look, this is what we admit to. This is what we did wrong and we’re willing to take that punishment.’ The folks reviewing the case here today, they saw it in a different light (from) what I think Mike Helton, John Darby and Robin Pemberton did at NASCAR. Even though they may not agree with the ruling, I think it was a fair ruling.” --Jeff Hammond, NASCAR on FOX/SPEED analyst

“I don’t think it’s stunning. To me, I think it’s smart. I don’t think the Gibbs organization did anything wrong when you look back at it. They bought a product that they are not allowed to delve into, that they are not allowed to change or touch from an outside manufacturer. I think the rules are antiquated, and I think this should be a wake-up call to NASCAR to look through the rulebook, as the sport changes, and change some of their findings and change the way they do things. I see it as one of the fairest things that I’ve seen NASCAR do in a long time.

“The rule is on the books, which is where NASCAR has to reevaluate. NASCAR did exactly what they were supposed to do. They went by their rulebook, and that’s what the rulebook says because of this infraction. But the rulebook needs to be changed because the sport and the model that we race under has changed.” --Kyle Petty, SPEED analyst

“No matter how you slice it, this was a huge victory for Joe Gibbs Racing. You have to wonder how NASCAR is thinking and feeling, though, after its last three consecutive, hefty penalties were reduced via one form of appeal or another. NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said they won’t change their enforcement policy or do things differently, but you would assume they are second-guessing themselves a bit as to why they keep losing on appeal.” --Tom Jensen, SPEED.com Editor-in-Chief

On the original violation…

“One thing we don’t want to lose sight of was the part was wrong. That’s probably the reason why the $200,000 fine stood. They aren’t just getting off ‘Scott-free,’ but we’ve always, and I think Joe Gibbs has contended, he admits that this part had gotten through the system and it shouldn’t have been there. But did it help and enhance performance? No. Did it give a benefit as far as them winning the race? They felt like, no, and a lot of the people in the garage area echoed that sentiment. But NASCAR was forced to throw the rulebook at them because the rule is black and white.” --Jeff Hammond

“Did today’s ruling hammer NASCAR or did it simply make something just that was unjust in the first place? I think you could argue it both ways. The penalty was really, really harsh considering JGR doesn’t build its own engines, but NASCAR historically has been tough on engine violations. Today’s ruling will fuel a lot of spirited debate.” --Tom Jensen

On the involvement of an outside vendor…

“It is an outside vendor. The sport has changed from when Junior Johnson, Harold Elliott and guys like that built engines. You knew, as a competitor, what was in your engine. Now you don’t. If it was a big engine, we knew it. As the sport changes; the model changes as the way the sport performs, and the way the business of the sport is done. NASCAR has to continue to look at the rulebook, and look at each individual situation and say, ‘How does this have a ripple effect?’ I think there’s an effect not only from the ruling, but from the initial fine to begin with.” --Kyle Petty

“In effect, increasing the points penalty assessed Toyota is NASCAR’s way of punishing the mass engine builders and holding them accountable for something that’s not the team’s fault. NASCAR made the point, and I think it’s fair, that it’s very difficult to penalize vendors. When you have a clearly illegal part in the car, there must be a way to hold someone accountable.” --Tom Jensen

On Matt Kenseth…

“He’s right back in the game. What they’ve done to him as far as crew chief is concerned, they can handle that; having him out for one race, not a big deal. They’ll have an opportunity right now to get back on track and go after the championship with their heads held high.” --Jeff Hammond

“I’m not surprised that Matt and the 20 team got off to this start. Remember that old saying, the only person who could keep Michael Jordan under 40 points was Dean Smith. The only guy that could keep Matt Kenseth from winning races and championships was Jack Roush.” --Kyle Petty

On the NASCAR rulebook…

“This is probably a great opportunity for NASCAR to look and say, ‘Where do we have a big hole in our rulebook right now?’ as far as getting the right person. That’s always been my thing, get the right person. Somebody does something wrong, as long as they are the ones that should be penalized, I’m okay with it. They couldn’t get to the right person in this situation.” --Jeff Hammond
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Re: Darlington and Whatnot

Post by StAugustineFL on Thu May 09, 2013 11:25 am

Nicely done cocoa.

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Re: Darlington and Whatnot

Post by sangria on Sat May 11, 2013 9:30 am

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Re: Darlington and Whatnot

Post by Swiss Miss on Sat May 11, 2013 12:40 pm

Had to let BB go san. He hasn't been performing lately.


voodoo voodoo voodoo voodoo voodoo voodoo voodoo voodoo voodoo voodoo
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Re: Darlington and Whatnot

Post by sangria on Sat May 11, 2013 3:15 pm

Glad to hear that.....maybe e will fire him, also !!!!
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Re: Darlington and Whatnot

Post by scouter534 on Sun May 12, 2013 6:46 am

Congrats on the win Cocoa.
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