NASCAR on Monday penalized three Cup teams and one Gander Outdoors Truck Series team for loose or missing lug nut violations in races this past weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
In the Cup Series:
* The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, driven by Austin Dillon. Crew chief Danny Stockman Jr. was fined $10,000.
* The No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford, driven by Matt Tifft. Crew chief Michael Kelley was fined $10,000.
* The No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet, driven by Ryan Preece. Crew chief Tristan Smith was fined $10,000.
In the Truck Series:
* The No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, driven by Kyle Busch. Crew chief Rudy Fugle was fined $2,500.
There were no other penalties assessed.
During a series of early morning posts Friday on Twitter, Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick, revealed several details about his team’s penalty at Texas Motor Speedway.
NASCAR effectively stripped Harvick’s victory Wednesday and knocked the team from the Championship 4 after finding an illegally mounted spoiler on the No. 4 Ford. According to Childers, the team gained 4 counts of downforce by offsetting the part to the right, or 0.04 percent of the car’s total downforce.
Childers also posted that the team made the decision to move the spoiler after watching many teams shift their decklids and spoilers to the right in the previous 1.5-mile race at Kansas Speedway two weeks earlier. Childers said it was too late for the team to move the decklid for the Texas race.
Suspended from the next two races, Childers said he is working from the shop this weekend rather than travel to Phoenix. Though he wouldn’t have been allowed in the garage, Childers would have been permitted to be in the grandstands or the suites. He hinted in a previous tweet that he might attend the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Childers also posted that there are no hard feelings with NASCAR about the penalty.
A spokesman for Stewart-Haas Racing said the team had no news or announcements planned Thursday about the penalties to Kevin Harvick’s team after its victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said in a statement Wednesday night that the team would be evaluating its options while continuing to talk NASCAR officials so as to “fully understand the rationale behind the penalty” that stripped Harvick of the playoff points for his second win of the season.
The driver and team also lost 20 points apiece, crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000 and car chief Robert Smith was suspended for two races.
NASCAR allows teams three days to decide whether to appeal to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel.
On Thursday’s NASCAR America (video above), analyst Jeff Burton said the penalty was “really interesting because the rear window penalty is really from pictures and things seen on the racetrack. Now NASCAR said the brace failed and did not hold the window in a rigid fashion.
“The question I’ve got moving forward is does this mean that we’re going to use photographs during the races to determine if someone is going to be penalized or not. Because if pictures are going to be taken to determine if a body was held rigid, there’s going to be a lot of penalties because there are a lot of moving parts on these race cars today.
“You can see rear windows moving. You can see sides of cars moving. I think this is going to cause something the public may never see, but all of a sudden cars getting much more rigid in regards to rear windows, sides, quarter panels moving. These teams are very, very smart and are very creative, and I think this is going to cause a ripple effect. There’s going to be a lot of crew chiefs walking into the NASCAR hauler wanting to understand exactly what this means going forward because, again, if NASCAR’s going to use pictures to help determine if penalties need to happen or not, it’s going to be a game-changer.”
Denny Hamlin will start the Cup Series playoffs without crew chief Mike Wheeler.
Joe Gibbs Racing said Wednesday it won’t appeal Hamlin’s rear-suspension penalties after the No. 11 Toyota’s win in Sunday’s Bojangles Southern 500, which means Wheeler’s two-race suspension will begin with the regular-season finale Sept. 9 at Richmond Raceway (rather than be deferred while awaiting an appeal hearing that could have made him eligible).
Chris Gabehart will be the interim crew chief for Hamlin at Richmond and Chicagoland Speedway.
Gabehart has been the crew chief for the No. 20 Xfinity Series team of JGR in 23 races this season, including four victories. He has worked three times in 2017 with Hamlin, winning the June 17 race at Michigan International Speedway. Gabehart was suspended two races after NASCAR ruled that victory also was encumbered becuase of an illegal splitter.
A Joe Gibbs Racing executive addressed the penalty to Denny Hamlin’s winning Xfinity Series car, saying the team would “make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Crew chief Chris Gabehart was suspended two races and fined $25,000, and the team was docked 25 points because the No. 20 Toyota’s splitter didn’t meet a minimum thickness in its shape after Hamlin’s last-lap victory over William Byron at Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR ruled the win as encumbered, meaning it can’t count toward earning playoff points for the owner’s championship in Xfinity.
JGR senior vice president of racing operations Jimmy Makar said on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s The Morning Drive that the splitter wasn’t manipulated during the race weekend at Michigan.
“The rules on the Xfinity side say your splitter has to be perfectly flat,” Makar said. “There was some shape on the splitter that didn’t quite meet the rules the way it was supposed to be. It was an unfortunate thing that happened. We were a little off what we were supposed to be. We have to look back at that and how it happened and why and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Makar confirmed the team won’t appeal the penalty.
“The rules are pretty clear,” he said. “It’s something where we were wrong with what we had there. We’ll take our penalty and move forward.”
Makar also addressed the team’s other significant news in the Xfinity news this week, installing Dave Rogers as its technical director. Rogers had been on a personal leave since March from his previous role as the No. 19 crew chief for Daniel Suarez in the Cup Series.
“We are shy on technical expertise in Xfinity and the burden is on the Cup side, so this was an opportunity to put Dave in as the technical director position on the Xfinity side,” Makar said. “It helps bring the Cup side and Xfinity side closer together.
“The way the cars are built and getting that in the Xfinity cars and also teaching younger guys the things they need to know and directions they need to be going. As we develop younger engineers and crew chiefs, this helps them to be more prepared if and when they make their step up on the Cup side.”