Short Track Racing under the Lights at Richmond, but Penalties top the news of the week
Matt Kenseth won last week's race in dominating fashion, only to be told his engine failed post-race inspection. Apparently, one of the eight connecting rods in the engine was found to be a few grams too light. Immediately, Toyota Racing Development, who supplies the parts, took full responsibility for the rod, which is supposed to weight 525 grams. NASCAR didn't care. They dropped the hammer hard on Joe Gibbs Racing. Never mind that the deficiency allowed no benefit whatsoever to the car, no benefit to the driver or the dominance of the car, and certainly no advantage to the way the car ran on-track.
In what I perceive as one of the most moronic penalties in the history of NASCAR, Matt was penalized 50 (yes, you read that correctly, FIFTY) points. Crew Chief, Jason Ratcliff, was penalized $200,000 and was suspended for six races. Matt still keeps his trophy (wow) but the win doesn't count towards his total wins when it comes to the Chase.
Why? Because the rule book is now double the thickness it was back when racing was racing, and fun. Everything is regulated. EVERYTHING.
If NASCAR can put a rule on it, they will. If they could limit what a driver eats for breakfast, I'm sure they would.
What I don't understand is that it would take a very sophisticated scale to weigh the connecting rod. You certainly couldn't tell the difference if you picked up two of the rods in your hands. It provided no advantage. Was it deliberate? Certainly not!! Why? Why would anyone put a lighter weighing rod into an engine for any reason? The team wasn't trying to cheat. The provider of the part has already taken full responsibility, so why such a severe penalty.
In my mind this is just so many more shades of stupid than the Penske penalties. The Penske teams knowingly installed a part, on both Brad Keselowski's and Joey Logano's cars, that was outside of the approval zone. They acknowledged that they were working in a grey area. They didn't ask for approval of the part, and they were caught. I still have problems with the severity of penalties, but I understand that NASCAR has to be a god when it comes to the parts on the car. Penske's appeal will be heard on May 1st.
For JGR, an appeal has been requested, but the date is not yet set. They are not appealing the fact that the connecting rod was light. They are appealing the fines. They still want to have a chance at a Championship in 2013, and the penalties levied all but guarantee that will be impossible. Hopefully, the panel of their peers can see this and will agree that the penalties are too severe.
The teams are racing at the short track of Richmond. It will be Saturday night, under the lights, and will no doubt be exciting. Denny Hamlin will not be there. He still has not received clearance from the doctors to drive in a competitive fashion, and he is frustrated and disappointed. The disappointment is evident in his voice, but he needs to take the time to heal. One can only hope he won't immediately go after Joey Logano on the track. Certainly his comments on twitter are not the type that indicate there is any forgiveness, or moving on in a positive fashion. Frankly, while I had hoped this break would mature him a little, and show him what can happen on the track when focus is lost, the exact opposite seems to be the case.
I'm sure we will be in for an entertaining race tomorrow. I'm sorry I'm not writing more about the racing. Unfortunately, NASCAR has decided penalties and policing are more important than the racing. How sad is that?