After the Nationwide Series race at Michigan, NASCAR inspectors found magnets under the pedals of two Joe Gibbs Racing entries- the #20 driven by Tony Stewart and the #18 driven by Joey Logano.
Today, the NASCAR rule book was thrown at the team as major penalties were handed out.
Both cars have been fined 150 driver and owners points, and Stewart and Logano are on probation until December 31st. Seven crew members in all have been suspended. Probably the harshest part penalties were handed down to Dave Rogers and Jason Ratcliff, as both crew chiefs have been fined $50,000 and have been suspended indefinitely.
Along with Ratcliff, crew member Toby Bigelow, car chief Dorian Thorsen and engine tuner Michael Johnson of the #18 have also been suspended indefinitely. From the #20, engine tuner Dan Bajek and car chief Richard Bray are also, along with Rogers, are indefinitely suspended.
Both the #18 and #20 teams are on probation until the end of the year.
Officially, the teams were found to be in violation of three NASCAR rules:
- Section 12-4-A(actions detrimental to stock car racing); 8-9 (competitive analysis -- from time to time, NASCAR may determine, in the interest of competition, that it is necessary or appropriate to undertake an analysis of the performance capabilities of a car, car part, component or equipment. The Competitor shall take whatever steps are requested by NASCAR Officials for this purpose. NASCAR also has the right to seal or impound cars, car parts, components and/or equipment for this purpose);
- Section 12-4-K: (when NASCAR Officials mandate inspection during the Event, if any car, car parts, components, and/or equipment which have been used in the Event are taken from the racing premises without permission of a NASCAR Official, or are tampered with by any member of the team or anyone associated with the team: Magnetic spacer attached under the gas pedal with the intent of compromising the chassis dynamometer test);
- Section 12-4-Q (1): (car, car parts, components and/or equipment used that do not conform to NASCAR rules, detailed in Section 20A of the 2008 NASCAR Rule Book, or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event, or is not required for the normal functional operation of the race car, or has been altered to detract from or compromise its integrity or effectiveness, whether operational or not).
The infraction comes just weeks after NASCAR gave all Nationwide Toyota teams a different tapered spacer to cut back 15 horsepower in order to "level the playing field."
Joe Gibbs Racing issued an apology for what they called an "unfortunate situation" and said a separate monetary penalty will be given. The team also said they accept 100% of the blame.
Saturday, NASCAR went to impound several cars to check horsepower on their chassis dynamometer. Joe Gibbs Racing allegedly manipulated the throttle so the full power of the engine would not be shown on the test. Jim Hunter, NASCAR spokesman, said the infraction "was a blatant attempt to interfere with the inspection process."
Stewart, driving his last Nationwide entry with Joe Gibbs Racing before leaving the team in 2009 for Stewart-Haas Racing, finished third while eighteen year old Logano finished seventh.