NASCAR drops hammer on 7 from Gibbs Racing

NASCAR and Joe Gibbs Racing lowered the penalty boom on seven members of that team Wednesday after magnetic shims were found on the No. 18 and No. 20 Toyotas after Saturday's Nationwide race at Michigan International Speedway.

NASCAR indefinitely suspended the crew chiefs, car chiefs and engine tuners on each team as well as a fourth crew member from the No. 18 team. Team owner Joe Gibbs issued a statement saying it would impose its own penalties with “the minimum being suspension for the remainder of the season for those involved, including our two Nationwide Series crew chiefs.”

Those crew chiefs are Jason Ratcliff on the No. 18 and Dave Rogers on the No. 20. Also suspended were car chief Dorian Thorsen, engine tuner Michael Johnson and crew member Toby Bigelow from the No. 18 team as well as car chief Richard Bray and engine tuner Dan Bajek from the No. 20.

NASCAR fined Ratcliff and Rogers $50,000 each and took 150 driver points from drivers Joey Logano of the No. 18 and Tony Stewart of the No. 20. Each team also lost 150 owner points, cutting the No. 20 team's owner standings lead to 168 points over Clint Bowyer's No. 2 team at Richard Childress Racing.

Gibbs said “there will also be an additional monetary fine beyond the amount announced by NASCAR … which will be the responsibility of those involved.”

The entire teams, including both drivers, were placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31. Gibbs said he was disappointed the drivers were put on probation “as they had no knowledge or involvement of this incident.”

Gibbs apologized.

“A poor decision was made by some key members of our organization, and 100 percent of the blame rests with us,” Gibbs said. “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.

“What we have determined is that these individuals involved used extremely poor judgment in attempting to alter the results of NASCAR's dyno test. … These JGR employees attempted to circumvent the NASCAR rule book and that is unacceptable.”

Both crew chiefs issued their own statements apologizing.

“Because of poor decision making, I have failed … as the leader of this team and I am solely responsible for this situation,” Ratcliff said. “I apologize to the men and women of NASCAR for my dishonesty and interference during a testing event.”

Rogers said he had failed Joe and J.D. Gibbs, the team's president, who “trust me to lead this race team with honesty and integrity. I have failed them and feel great remorse for doing so.”

Shims were placed under the gas pedal on the Gibbs cars to keep the throttle from opening 100 percent in the test following Saturday's race.

“It is NASCAR's responsibility to … ensure that the competitive playing field is level for everyone,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharpe said. “In this case, the rule violation was serious and was attempting to interfere with our ability to conduct an accurate postrace competitive analysis. It called for a serious reaction on our part and we think the penalty speaks to that.”

Toyota teams, including JGR, objected last month when NASCAR mandated that Toyotas use a carburetor spacer with smaller holes than those on other Nationwide Series engines.