Its been another very busy week in the NASCAR world with so much content to distract you from the playoffs that it’s not even funny. I wrote about that here. However, here’s what happened this past week that you may have missed.
Custer’s No. 41 team massively penalized for Charlotte actions
The penalties keep on coming and for a second straight week, Stewart-Haas Racing was at the center of it. This week it was Cole Custer’s turn for his involvement on the final lap of last Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte.
The team was penalized under Section 5.5 of the NASCAR Rule Book, which requires competitors to race at 100% of their ability and takes action against competitors who intend to “artificially alter” the race’s finishing positions. Other rule book sections cited in Tuesday’s penalty report fall under the headings of member conduct.
Driver Cole Custer and No. 41 crew chief Mike Shiplett were each fined $100,000, and Shiplett was suspended indefinitely. Competition officials also issued 50-point deductions to Custer and the team in their respective driver and owner standings.
Custer’s No. 41 Mustang appeared to slow in the final lap of Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400, impeding the path of a handful of other cars while allowing SHR teammate Chase Briscoe to slip through at the entrance to the backstretch chicane. Briscoe advanced to the next round of the playoffs by a two-point margin — that pass for position on Custer did not alter the points standings for the final transfer spot which is why they didn’t come down even heavier because if Custer’s action was the sole reason to why Briscoe advanced, then they’d have laid down the gauntlet. However, Briscoe didn’t need Custer’s spot to do so.
NASCAR officials indicated post-race that they would conduct a review of the final-lap data, video and radio transmissions after Sunday’s race. Competition officials also said that the findings and potential penalties would not alter the postseason field, which was whittled from 12 to eight title-eligible drivers after Sunday’s event.
Scott Miller said the reason for this stiff fine is that they have proof that it was manipulation because Shiplett told Custer he had a flat to slow down when in fact, Shiplett couldn’t see the car from that vantage point and had no data to reflect on the pit box that Custer had a flat tire.
“The data was pretty telling, and then we got to the audio and had the crew chief telling the driver that ‘I think you’ve got a flat, check up, check up, check up’ when he couldn’t even see the car or have any idea whatsoever that the car might have a flat. Pretty telling as to what went on there. That coupled with the data and the video … nothing contradicted that that was done deliberately by those individuals. We were forced to react.
“We can’t have teams manipulating the finishing order. Certainly on super-high alert in the playoffs. Had this been the determining factor in (Briscoe) in making it in to the Round of 8 or not, our reaction certainly would have been bigger.”
Where this is different than say Chase Elliott vs. Kevin Harvick in Bristol last year is that Elliott wasn’t told to hold Harvick up but rather took it upon himself to do so on track. This result from last weekend had intention behind it.
“I don’t believe anybody told Chase Elliott to block Kevin Harvick so that Kyle Larson could win,” Miller said. “That was a driver taking things into his own hands. Sketchy? Yes, but premeditated to alter the results of the race? Don’t think so. Quite a different situation there.
“Involvement over the radio and instructions over the radio that they could not even be construed as anything else. Those are the things that you can’t overlook.
“Could we call it teamwork? Yes, teams work together, they draft together and do all kinds of things together and work as a team, but blatantly pulling over and changing the finishing order on the last lap is what makes it over the top and especially with instructions from the pit box.”
SHR to appeal Custer penalty, drops appeal of Harvick’s
As I stated above, SHR had another large penalty last week too. Kevin Harvick’s car was 1 of 2 vehicles brought back to the R&D Center following the Round of 12 finale at Talladega. There, they found a manipulated rear deck lid.
Harvick’s No. 4 team was docked 100 points in both the drivers and owners standings, fined $100k as well as having crew chief Rodney Childers suspended 4 races.
Last Friday, they announced that they’d appeal that penalty. However, on Wednesday afternoon they announced that they’d drop the appeal and take the penalty instead.
They in turn will appeal Custer’s penalty although it’s going to be a difficult one to overturn. SHR is now facing $300k in fines over a 2 week span.
NASCAR updates appeals rulebook
Prior to the Harvick penalty, the infraction the attention was on prior to that was William Byron’s. He was penalized 25 points and fined $50k for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution towards the end of the Round of 12 opener at Texas. The appeal was heard last Thursday and the ruling didn’t go in NASCAR’s favor.
Byron’s points penalty was dropped but the fine upped to $100k from $50k. It was something Bryon would gladly take because having his 25 points back took him from 11 points below the cutline to 14 points above it.
He’d advance to the 3rd round by 11 points…
As a result, NASCAR has updated the rule book with some tweaks to the appeal process. Part of the amended rule is that multiple representatives can be represented by both sides in the room. The old rule had just one NASCAR official allowed to be present at the time of the appeal in order to represent the sanctioning body’s case.
Now, they can have multiple folks in the room.
Stewart-Haas Racing isn’t taking this lightly. They issued a statement on Thursday saying, “Stewart-Haas Racing denies any wrongdoing and will vigorously defend its personnel against these allegations in its appeal with NASCAR.”
Tony Stewart even took to his social media and tweeted:
They feel picked on. Kevin Harvick was very vocal about the safety in NASCAR and questioning the leadership in their role in this Next Gen. His car was 1 of 2 “random” cars selected to go back to the R&D Center a week after. Some would say that’s a conspiracy theory that he was only chosen because he’s been so outspoken and that this was NASCAR’s way of “sticking it to them.”
Then you get the large penalty for Cole Custer which SHR feels wronged in a sense that Chase Elliott purposely slowed Kevin Harvick in the Round of 16 cut race at Bristol last year which helped Elliott’s teammate Kyle Larson win instead of Harvick.
These threats seem serious.
Bowman To Miss Entire Round of 8
Alex Bowman will not compete in the next three NASCAR Cup Series races as he recovers from a concussion suffered in a Sept. 25 accident at Texas Motor Speedway.
Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Hendrick Motorsports, was evaluated Wednesday in Pittsburgh by Dr. Michael “Micky” Collins, clinical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for the entire staff at UPMC,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports. “Our priority continues to be Alex’s recovery and long-term health, and we will follow the plan that Dr. Collins and his team recommend. We’re not looking past the next three races and will evaluate plans for the season finale (at Phoenix Raceway) as the event approaches.”
Noah Gragson, 24, will be Bowman’s substitute driver Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Oct. 23 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Oct. 30 at Martinsville Speedway. The Las Vegas native also filled in for Bowman Oct. 2 at Talladega Superspeedway and Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.