CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - NASCAR suspended seven crew members of Joe Gibbs Racing and stripped drivers Tony Stewart and Joey Logano of 150 points each Wednesday for cheating after last weekend's Nationwide Series race.
Crew chiefs Jason Ratcliff and Dave Rogers were suspended
indefinitely and fined $50,000 each, but NASCAR decided not to bar
the cars from future races.
Owner Joe Gibbs said he would not appeal the penalties. He
indicated he would also personally fine the crew members involved
and suspend them through the end of the season.
"We want to apologize to NASCAR, all of our partners, all of
our families at JGR, and all of our fans for the unfortunate
incident that took place this past weekend in Michigan with our two
Nationwide teams," Gibbs said in a statement. "A poor decision
was made by some key members of our organization, and 100 percent
of the blame rests with us."
No. 18 car chief Dorian Thorsen, engine tuner Michael Johnson
and crew member Toby Bigelow and No. 20 car chief Richard Bray and
engine tuner Dan Bajek also received indefinite suspensions. JGR
was docked 150 owner points for each car and the teams were placed
on probation for the rest of the season.
After Stewart finished third in Saturday's race at Michigan
International Speedway in the No. 20 car and Logano was seventh in
the No. 18, inspectors found magnets under the gas pedals of both
cars when they were sent to the chassis dyno for examination.
NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said the teams
were attempting to mask the cars' true horsepower.
"In 17 years we have never had any representative of Joe Gibbs
Racing knowingly act outside of NASCAR's rules, and that is
something we consider essential to how we operate on a daily
basis," Gibbs said. "What we have determined is that these
individuals involved used extremely poor judgment in attempting to
alter the results of NASCAR's dyno test following Saturday's
Nationwide Series race in Michigan.
"Although in no way was anything done that might have altered
the race outcome, these JGR employees attempted to circumvent the
NASCAR rule book and that is unacceptable."
The discovery of using magnets to try to prevent the gas pedal
from reaching the floor came as Gibbs' No. 18 and No. 20 Toyotas
have dominated this season. They've combined to win 14 of 25
Nationwide races and NASCAR last month ordered all Toyota teams to
cut about 15 horsepower in their motors.
The No. 20 car's lead in the owners standing was cut to 168 over
the No. 2 car owned by Richard Childress Racing.
The penalties, among the most severe handed down by NASCAR,
comes as the sanctioning body continues to take a harder stance on
NASCAR took away 150 driver points from Martin Truex Jr. and
crew chief Kevin "Bono" Manion was fined $100,000 and suspended
six races for bringing an illegal car to Daytona in July.
But JGR, which has prided itself on running a squeaky-clean
operation, had rarely come under scrutiny from NASCAR. Before last
weekend, the last time a JGR car came under suspicion was in 2003
when Stewart's car was impounded after failing inspection before it
hit the track at Texas Motor Speedway.
The point deductions mean little to Stewart, who was racing in
his final Nationwide race for JGR, and Logano, who has run a
partial schedule since turning 18 earlier this year. But Gibbs said
he didn't agree with placing the drivers on probation, claiming
they had no knowledge of the cheating.
NASCAR on Wednesday also fined Sprint Cup driver Reed Sorenson's crew chief Donnie Wingo $25,000 after the car was found to have an improperly attached weight in Sunday's race at Michigan.