Just a few days ago, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth was celebrating his second win since joining the team at the start of of the 2013 season after finding victory lane in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway.
But it's a different story mid-week, with news that Kenseth has been hit by big penalties, with NASCAR announcing on Wednesday that the driver would lose a massive 50 championship points which will drop him from eighth place in the Cup standings to 14th after a component of the car's Toyota race engine was found to be underweight.
As part of the penalty ruling, the #20 JGR car also loses the same number of owner points, and furthermore will not be allowed to earn owner points for the next six races as Joe Gibbs' owner's license for the vehicle has been suspended for the interim period.
Although Kenseth remains the nominal winner of Sunday's race, it won't count either toward a most-wins wildcard (should he fail to make the Chase by finishing the regular season in 26th place) nor would he gain the usual 3 point bonus for the Kansas victory that drivers get per win to start the play-offs with if he were to qualify.
Also hard hit is the crew chief of the #20, Jason Ratcliff, who has been served with a $200,000 fine and suspended from competition for the next six Sprint Cup events, which also includes the non-championship Sprint Cup All-Star race at Charlotte next month. Once he resumes his post he will be on NASCAR probation through to the end of 2013.
The team has indicated that it plans to exercise its right of appeal over the ruling and the size of the penalties being imposed.
"It is our understanding that one of the eight connecting rods on the engine was ruled too light," the team said in a brief statement after the NASCAR announcement. "We are working with our partners at [Toyota] on this issue. In the meantime we will plan to appeal the penalty."
The penalties came after the #20 was among the cars taken away by NASCAR at the end of the Kansas event for a more comprehensive stripdown at NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina than is possible in the usual pre- and post-race scrutineering checks at the race venue. While the selection of cars to take away is usually fairly random, the winning car is invariably among them.
The specific rule cited by NASCAR in their penalty ruling is Section 20-5.5.3E of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup rulebook, which states that “Only solid magnetic steel connecting rods with a minimum weight of 525 grams will be permitted," with the weight taken as including the connecting road cap and cap fasteners, but without the bearing inserts.