Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Hammer Falls On Joe Gibbs Racing

NASCAR has indefinitely suspended seven Joe Gibbs Racing crewmembers for their parts in attempting to manipulate the results of a post-race chassis dyno test at Michigan International Speedway Saturday.

No. 20 crewchief Dave Rogers, carchief Richard Bray and engine tuner Dan Bajek were all suspended indefinitely, along with No. 18 crewchief Jason Ratcliff, carchief Dorian Thorsen, engine tuner Michael Johnson and crewmember Toby Bigelow. Drivers Joey Logano and Tony Stewart have been penalized 150 championship points, and placed on NASCAR probation until December 31st. Car owner Joe Gibbs was penalized 150 owner points for each car. In addition, all remaining members of both teams have been placed on NASCAR probation until December 31st.

JGR’s No. 20 team still leads the owners points by 168 over the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing team.

NASCAR cited four different violations, as outlined in the 2009 Nationwide Series rulebook:

Sections 12-4-A, the omnipresent "Actions detrimental to stock car racing."

Section 8-9, which reads, "From time to time, NASCAR may determine, in the interest of competition, that it is necessary or appropriate to undertake an analysis of the performance capabilities of a car, car part, component or equipment. The Competitor shall take whatever steps are requested by NASCAR Officials for this purpose."

Section 12-4-Q, which states, "Car, car parts, components and/or equipment used that do not conform to NASCAR rules… has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event, or is not required for the normal functional operation of the race car, or has been altered to detract from or compromise its integrity or effectiveness, whether operational or not."

And finally, Section 12-4-K, which reads, "When NASCAR Officials mandate inspection during the Event, if any car, car parts, components, and/or equipment which have been used in the Event are taken from the racing premises without permission of a NASCAR Official, or are tampered with by any member of the team or anyone associated with the team."

In layman’s terms, Sections 12-4-Q and 12-4-K are the most applicable to this case. Section 12-4-Q effectively says that teams cannot place parts on the car that are not required for normal function during the race. JGR clearly did this, after the race was over.

Section 12-4-K says teams cannot tamper with their cars prior to (or during) post-race inspection, without NASCAR's permission. That clearly happened Saturday.

JGR has the right to appeal the ruling to the National Stock Car Racing Commission, but JD Gibbs said Sunday that the team would accept whatever penalties were handed down.

For those who wonder what "indefinite suspension" means in the world of NASCAR, the seven suspended team members are now in the same boat as Shane Hmiel and Aaron Fike. They are suspended from competition, with no set timetable for reinstatement. They may apply to NASCAR for reinstatement at any time, with the sanctioning body determining when (and if) they come back. They seven crewmen can continue to work for in the Joe Gibbs Racing shop, but cannot enter any NASCAR-sanctioned facility until their suspensions are lifted.

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