DARLINGTON, S.C.—Matt Kenseth was grateful for the appeals process that restored him to the top 10 in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points and crew chief Jason Ratcliff to the race track, but there was no sense of “I told you so” when Kenseth talked to reporters Friday morning at Darlington.
Joe Gibbs Racing won substantial reductions of penalties assessed by NASCAR after the sanctioning body found an underweight connecting rod in the engine of the No. 20 Toyota Camry that Kenseth drove to victory Apr. 21 at Kansas Speedway.
“I don’t know about ‘vindicated,'” Kenseth said in a response to a question from the NASCAR Wire Service. “I still feel bad we were in that spot to start with to even have a penalty, to even really put NASCAR in that position to have to react and to do something.
“That’s really your goal, is to never be in that spot. Certainly, I think these penalties are way more in line with what I initially thought that it would be compared to things that had happened in the past and things like that. I thought this was closer to what I thought it was going to be to start with.”
NASCAR originally slapped Ratcliff with a $200,000 fine and suspension for six Cup points events. Kenseth was docked 50 championship points and fell out of the top 10. Team owner Joe Gibbs was docked 50 owner points and suspended for six events, during which the No. 20 car would not have been allowed to accrue owner points, effectively ending its prospects for an owners’ championship.
Gibbs appealed, and on Wednesday, the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel restored 38 of 50 points to both Kenseth and Gibbs and rescinded Gibbs’ suspension. Ratcliff’s suspension was reduced from six races to one, with that suspension to be served this weekend at Darlington.
The appeals panel, however, added two points to the five-point penalty levied in the manufacturers’ standings against Toyota, whose Toyota Racing Development division supplied the engine that failed inspection.
To Kenseth, the rescission of most of Ratcliff’s suspension was a key element.
“I think that will be a huge difference,” Kenseth said. “I’ve got a really, really strong race team over there. I feel good about everybody and the jobs they do, but certainly Jason is the guy that makes it happen.
“I told him when it all happened I don’t think I can get along without him, so I’ll miss him (Friday) and (Saturday) and get through the day, although I think they’re really prepared, really ready for this because they kind of were thinking it was probably coming. But I’ll be really thankful I have him back next week.”