CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR came down hard Wednesday on the Joe Gibbs Racing team of Matt Kenseth after the engine in the winning No. 20 car from Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway failed inspection.
Kenseth was penalized 50 points in the standings and his crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, was suspended for six races — as well as the May 18 All-Star race — and fined $200,000 after the engine failed a secondary postrace inspection.
The president of Toyota Racing Development was quick to take full blame for the violation that cost Kenseth and JGR everything but the trophy and the official win.
“This is a total screw-up on our part,” Lee White told ESPN.com. “I’m not going to point fingers at anybody. This is on my head. We neglected to double- and triple-check a shipment of parts from a European vender.”
Kenseth was essentially stripped of the win — he also lost the three bonus points he earned for the win that would have been applied in seeding for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. His pole, which would have made him eligible for the 2014 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway, also was rescinded.
And in a rare move, car owner Joe Gibbs had his owner’s license suspended for the next six races and he won’t earn car owner points during that time. He also was docked 50 car owner points. Toyota, which supplies the JGR engines through Costa Mesa, Calif.-based TRD, also lost five points in the manufacturer standings.
Kenseth dropped from eighth in the standings to tied with Jeff Gordon in 14th place. Ratcliff’s suspension will be put on hold pending an appeal the Toyota team plans to file.
Toyota’s White took “full responsibility for this issue,” confirming that a sole connecting rod was to blame.
“One part came in 2.7 grams underweight, and somehow made it through our processes and ended up unfortunately in an engine that was selected to be weighed,” White told ESPN.com.
He said the magnetic steel part, which connects the piston and crankshaft, had a required minimum of 525 grams.
White added the illegal part was underweight by the equivalent of “two cotton balls.”
White said his organization has gone back and checked the rods in other engines supplied by TRD and called back a few that were within a couple of grams of the legal limit. He said one was from JGR and at least one other from Michael Waltrip Racing.
White added that the weight of the rod in no way gave Kenseth a competitive advantage.
“Zero,” he said. “Absolutely not any possible way this is a performance advantage. You would not do this for performance. You certainly would not do it here and do it in only one of the eight rods.
“This isn’t a gray area. It’s black and white. This should never have happened. It’s a total screw-up on my end.”
White understands NASCAR has no tolerance when it comes to engine rules, but he believes the punishment was too severe and he will help JGR all he can during the appeal process.
“This has zero to do with Joe Gibbs Racing, nothing to do with Jason Ratcliff, nothing to do with Matt Kenseth,” he said. “Zero. Having said that, everyone understands the way the rules are structured the team takes the heat.
“Thank the Lord we do have an appeals process. Hopefully, that will be a fair hearing.”
No announcement has been given on the date of the appeal. White said he assumed it will be two weeks since Penske Racing’s appeal of penalties against Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will be heard next Wednesday.
The Penske Racing drivers were docked 25 points each after NASCAR confiscated rear end housing parts from their cars two weeks ago at Texas. The teams also had a combined seven team members suspended pending the May 1 appeal.
White said TRD designs and develops all primary major components for its engines. He said all other parts are purchased from “top quality outside vendors.”
He said the vendors build the parts to TRD’s specifications, but it is up to TRD to make sure the parts are legal.
“This is not on Joe Gibbs Racing,” White reiterated. “This is on TRD. This is on myself.”
Kenseth’s car passed an initial postrace inspection, but the engine was brought back to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., for further evaluation — as it always is with the winning car — where it failed.
The win was the second this season for Kenseth, who moved to Joe Gibbs Racing from Roush Fenway Racing after the 2012 season, and the fourth for JGR in the past six races.
NASCAR has reacted firmly on engine issues before. In 2009, little-known Carl Long was penalized 200 driver points when his engine was found to be 0.17 cubic inches too big in preparation for the preliminary to the Sprint All-Star race. His crew chief was fined $200,000 and suspended for 12 weeks.
In 1983, Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty was fined $35,000 and docked 104 championship points for an oversized engine at Charlotte Motor Speedway.