NASCAR issues penalties including suspension to No. 41 Stewart-Haas team

NASCAR acted swiftly and Tuesday issued heavy penalties to the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford driven by Cole Custer, for a last lap incident during Sunday’s race on the Charlotte ROVAL.

Cole Custer has been fined $100,000, while crew chief Mike Shiplett has been fined $100,000 and suspended indefinitely. NASCAR said the violations came from sections 4.3.A; 4.4.C & 5.5: NASCAR Member Code of Conduct/Performance Obligation of the NASCAR Rulebook.

Sunday, Stewart-Haas driver Chase Briscoe needed to gain a few spots on the final laps to point his way into the next round. On the final lap in overtime Briscoe was charging forward. As the field was charging towards the backstretch chicane, Briscoe’s teammate Cole Custer appeared to move up and block those behind as Briscoe passed him underneath.

On the NBC Sports broadcast analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. said: “Cole Custer, throwing a block on everybody.”

Briscoe would indeed make up enough spots to eliminate Kyle Larson and move on to the next round.

“I knew the 3 (Austin Dillon) had literally wrecked me two laps before and I was wanting to give it back to him because I was so mad and then I just knew I had to go,” Briscoe said.  “It’s a tough spot for the non-playoff guys.

“The 43 (Erik Jones), I kind of put him in a really bad spot and put myself in a bad spot too, but I was just shoving him because I had to get going knowing that every spot was gonna make the difference.

“My team came over the radio and told me I was one point out and that was the 43 car that I needed to pass, so I kind of shoved him out of the way and then the 3 got by both of us and then I had the back straightaway to do a Hail Mary and luckily somebody caught it and I was able to move on.”

About 90 minutes after the finish NASCAR released a statement:

“NASCAR is reviewing data, video and radio transmissions from the 41 car following its incident on the backstretch during the final lap,” the statement read. “NASCAR will communicate the results of the review early this week. Any potential penalties would not affect the Round of 8 field.”

Tuesday that review was obviously completed, and the action taken. There was little doubt that NASCAR would change the results and put Larson back into the Playoffs over Briscoe.

In 2013, driver Clint Bowyer, racing for the now defunct Michael Waltrip Racing, was accused of intentionally spinning out and causing a caution at Richmond Raceway that ended up putting two of the teams three cars into the Chase as the Playoffs were called then. NASCAR later investigated and found the team had intentionally orchestrated the spin.

In the aftermath Jeff Gordon was put back in contention, an MWR executive was suspended, one the team’s primary sponsor left, and the team eventually folded.

Whether this latest incident will rise anywhere near that level, there will be an investigation and in the unlikely event there was some sort of call from the Stewart-Haas Racing team, there could be heavy penalties, although given NASCAR’s statement it’s highly doubtful that a driver would be given a spot in the Playoffs they were eliminated from.

After Tuesday’s penalty report was issued the team said they would be filing an appeal.  Recently William Byron and the Hendrick Motorsports team appealed a penalty Byron was handed down for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution at Talladega. The appeals panel doubled the fine, but threw out the points deduction given to Byron who advanced to the next round of the Playoffs last Sunday.

NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller met with the media shortly after the penalties were announced and said they reviewed the data shortly after the race and that data made it pretty clear what had happened.

“The 41(Custer) slowed abruptly …on the back straightaway blocking the 3.

“The 14 (Briscoe) went by the 41 and the 3. So obviously with all of the data that we have available to us now data coming off the car for breaks, you know, steering, throttle, and all of the audio we dug into all of that and, and obviously found some things that we felt like we had to react to.”

Miller said the biggest sign was a radio transmission from crew chief Shiplett.

“When we got to the audio and had the crew chief telling the driver that, ‘I think you got a flat checkup, checkup, checkup’ when he couldn’t even see the car or have any idea whatsoever that the car might have a flat pretty obviously pretty telling as to what went on there.”

Miller added that it was clear that Custer didn’t have a flat, using in car videos and replays to confirm that.

“Nothing contradicted the fact that that was done deliberately by those individuals,” he said. “So, we were certainly forced to react.

“Today, we can’t have teams manipulating the finishing order.”


Greg Engle