Joey Logano’s win at Richmond is encumbered.
NASCAR announced Thursday — four days after Logano’s win — that the No. 22 car failed post-race inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center following Sunday’s race. Logano has been penalized 25 points and crew chief Todd Gordon has been fined $50,000. The inspection failure is associated with the rear suspension of the car. Manipulating the suspension can help a car corner faster.
The violation was under Section 20 of the NASCAR Rule Book. According to the penalty grid NASCAR issued, the No. 22 team did not adhere to the following: the Truck trailing arm spacer/pinion angle shim mating surfaces must be planar and must be in complete contact with corresponding mating surfaces at all points and at all times.
The encumbered finish means that Logano can’t use the win for NASCAR’s playoffs. Race winners automatically advance to the playoffs and each win counts for five points to use in the playoffs. Even though Logano will be officially and forever recognized as the winner of Sunday’s race, the win does not qualify him for the playoffs. And if and when he makes the playoffs, he will not be able to use the five bonus points typically awarded.
It’s the first time NASCAR has “encumbered” a race win since the encumber term was introduced into NASCAR lexicon in 2016. It also revitalizes the debate about race wins and cars that fail inspection. Should a car that’s deemed to be illegal get to keep a win? Matt Kenseth’s car failed laser inspection after winning at New Hampshire in 2016 and similar to Logano, he was able to keep the win despite the points penalty.
NASCAR typically takes the race winner and a random car or two to the R&D center for further tear down after a race. That lack of cars to the R&D center could also be a reason why NASCAR doesn’t take away wins. There are races where it may not know if a car in second or third place is illegal, even if it passes cursory at-track inspection.
(Logano’s car presumably passed at-track inspection. There was no announcement immediately after Sunday’s race that officials had found something amiss with his car.)
And if NASCAR doesn’t speed up its midweek inspection process throughout the course of the 2017 season, the delay in announcing Logano’s penalty sets up a more than zero chance that fans could find out days later that the driver who wins the 2017 championship at Homestead did so with an illegal car.
Yeah, that’s a very outlandish and farfetched scenario, but it’s now a feasible one given what happened Thursday. And as we’ve said many times, NASCAR reality has a sharp tendency to be more outlandish than fiction.
The penalty is also the second for Team Penske this season. Brad Keselowski was docked 35 points for failing laser inspection at Phoenix. Penske is currently appealing that penalty, though Keselowski’s crew chief Paul Wolfe is sitting out at Talladega this weekend. The final appeal is set for May 9. If the penalty is upheld, Wolfe will have to miss Kansas on May 13 to fill out his suspension.
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