Cole Custer’s penalty from his actions on the final lap of the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte was upheld on Thursday. The National Motorsports Appeals Panel listened to Stewart-Haas Racing’s side of things earlier and the members (Mr. Dixon Johnston, Mr. Bill Mullis and Mr. Dale Pinilis) felt like the penalty that NASCAR levied was substantiated.
That penalty was a $100k fine and docked 50 points as a result of violations of Section 5.5 of the NASCAR Rule Book, which states that competitors must race at 100% of their ability and takes action against competitors who intend to “artificially alter” the race’s finishing order.
Additionally, crew chief Mike Shiplett will remain indefinitely suspended from NASCAR and is also fined $100,000 as well.
As far as what transpired, Custer slowed down on the final lap of the Round of 12 elimination race on the final lap to what appeared to be a maneuver to allow Chase Briscoe a position or two on track. You can tell that they felt like if they gave up a couple spots by slowing down and affecting the drivers around him, then Briscoe could pass them all and have more than enough points to advance to the third round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
That’s exactly what happened but the weird thing is, Briscoe was already more than good at that moment and didn’t need Custer to make that decision.
It appeared that this decision was make on Custer’s pit box because Shiplett radioed to Custer that he had a flat for which NASCAR determined that there was no way Shiplett could have known that from his vantage point on the pit box at that time and in that manner.
“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,” said NASCAR’s Scott Miller on the penalty at the time. “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.”