Certainly a victory in the Bojangle’s Southern 500 would mean a very good weekend for Matt Kenseth, but he’s had a good weekend already.
That’s because, two days ago, the recent severe penalties enforced by NASCAR on his Joe Gibbs Racing team following the race at Kansas were significantly reduced by the sanctioning body’s three-man appeals panel.
Speaking to reporters, Kenseth said that he was “pleasantly surprised” that sweeping reductions to the penalties had been made.
“The penalties were pretty crushing before they were reduced so I really applaud NASCAR for having the appeals process and putting it in place so other people can look at it all as the dust settles,” Kenseth said. “These penalties are way more in line with what I initially thought they would be.
“I thought this was closer to what I thought it would be to start with.”
During a post-race inspection at its R&D Center in Concord, N.C., NASCAR discovered that a connecting rod in Kenseth’s Toyota was over 2 grams lighter than allowed.
Among other things, NASCAR suspended Kenseth’s crew chief Jason Ratcliff for six races, took away 50 driver points from Kenseth and 50 owner points from Gibbs and declared that the team’s victory in Kansas would not count toward the Chase.
In a clear victory for Gibbs, The appeals panel lessened or rescinded many of the most severe elements of the penalty. Kenseth’s points penalty was reduced from 50 to 12, Ratcliff’s suspension was reduced from six weeks to one – which he’ll serve over Darlington weekend – Kenseth’s Kansas win will count toward the Chase again and Gibbs’ ability to collect owner points was restored.
The original $200,000 fine given Ratcliff remained intact.
“For some reason I had a good feeling about Wednesday’s appeal,” Kenseth said. “I didn’t know if we would get that much in reductions, but I felt more confident than any other appeal I’ve heard about.
“I think everybody was in shock when the penalties got handed out to start with so I felt pretty good that they were going to be reduced.
“But I really didn’t know by how far.”
Wally Brown will serve as interim crew chief during Ratcliff’s absence at Darlington.
“He was at Roush Fenway Racing for a long time and he’s been at Gibbs for a long time,” Kenseth said. “So they all know him well.
“He’ll be a good guy to fill in this weekend. So I’m looking forward to getting on the track and getting all this behind us.”