Updated at: 05/31/2013 2:06 PM
By DAN GELSTON
(AP) DOVER, Del. - Denis McGlynn had a simple explanation why an appeals panel sided with Joe Gibbs Racing and eased penalties levied against the organization by NASCAR: The harsh punishment simply did not fit the small infraction.
McGlynn, CEO of Dover International Speedway, was part of a three-person National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel that significantly reduced NASCAR’s punishment of JGR for having an illegal part in Matt Kenseth’s race-winning engine at Kansas.
"The penalty was so severe for what was, in our opinion, a minor infraction," McGlynn said Thursday.
McGlynn said the panel entered the appeal "thinking with more flexibility" because penalties against Penske Racing had been reduced a week earlier by chief appellate officer John Middlebrook.
NASCAR discovered during the post-race inspection that one of eight connecting rods in the engine at the April 21 race did not meet the minimum weight requirement. The part was too light by 3 grams, less than the weight of an envelope.
Kenseth was stripped of 50 driver points, lost bonus points for the win, and his win didn’t count toward his eligibility for a wild-card berth in the Chase. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff was suspended six races and fined $200,000. Owner Joe Gibbs had his license suspended, among other penalties.
Toyota, which supplies the JGR engines through Costa Mesa, Calif.-based TRD, accepted responsibility and insisted one light rod did not give Kenseth a performance advantage. The panel of McGlynn, Mark Arute, general manager of Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut and Jack Housby, who fielded cars in the 1970s and `80s, agreed Toyota was to blame.
"Yes, the engine was out spec very, very marginally," McGlynn said. "There were three independent affidavits or personal testimony from engine builders who testified that infraction gave no advantage to the team. In fact, the other push rods were all overweight."
Kenseth had his points deduction reduced to 12. The panel also reinstated the three bonus points he earned for the victory for seeding in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
The panel also reduced Ratcliff’s suspension from six races to one race, and eliminated the six-race suspension for Gibbs. It let stand Ratcliff’s $200,000 fine. The only action the panel took was increasing Toyota’s penalty from a five-point fine to seven points.
"We felt since the crew chiefs all sign on with the notion they are ultimately responsible with anything that occurs with the car, we felt we had to leave the $200,000 fine in place to get NASCAR’s back and reinforce the notion that these guys are, in fact, ultimately responsible," McGlynn said.
In retrospect, McGlynn said the panel should not have allowed the win to count toward Chase eligibility because the engine had an illegal part. McGlynn said he reached out that day to NASCAR President Mike Helton and apologized if he made his day more difficult.
"He said we did," McGlynn said, chuckling. "But it’s just one of those things. We’re on that panel for a purpose."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)