You could say Matt Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing team got an early Christmas gift when NASCAR reduced the penalties levied against him. They were given out after his victory in the STP 400 from the Kansas Speedway for an engine part that was too light. The part made no performance enhancement for Kenseth, and was given to the team by TRD engines that way. Kenseth, as you would expect, was relieved by the appeals process.
“You hope not to have yourself in that position. That, I think, is the main point for us to take away is to make sure us and JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and our partners and everything — we’ve got it all worked out where you don’t have something like that ever happen again so you’re not in that spot. Obviously, I’m happy that it got reduced,” Kenseth told media members Friday from the Darlington Raceway, site of Saturday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.
He was also appreciative that NASCAR offers an appeals process where they can contest penalties handed out.
“The penalties were pretty crushing before they got them reduced, so I think, really applaud NASCAR for having the appeals process and putting that in place to have some people look at after the dust settles a little bit. Be objective, look at all the facts and make a decision. We’ve seen some increased, some reduced and some kept the same through the past. I feel like they did a nice job of looking at all the facts, the circumstances and everything that went with it and made a decision there,” Kenseth said.
Even with the reduction, he will be without crew chief Jason Ratcliff for this weekend.
“I think that will be a huge difference. I’ve got a really, really strong race team over there. I feel good about everybody and the jobs they do, but certainly Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) 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 tonight and tomorrow and get through the day, although I think they’re really prepared, really ready for this because they kind of was thinking it was probably coming, but I’ll be really thankful I have him back next week,” commented Kenseth.
The win at Kansas will once again count towards a wildcard spot in the Chase, something that brings relief to Kenseth and his crew.
“You never know what will happen and even with the penalty we had before they gave us the points back — I mean, man, you’re still right on the bubble if you have a wreck at Talladega or a broken part or something happen, you could easily be out of the Chase, so certainly that — that doesn’t guarantee you’re going to be in, but certainly it helps your chances,” he continued.
With the depth of personnel and his skill behind the wheel, it shouldn’t hurt Kenseth too badly this weekend. The Sprint Cup Series gets underway tonight at 7:30 PM EST on FOX.