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It's been a very expensive week for The Coach

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

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Joe Gibbs
NASCAR has now issued its verdict regarding those extraordinary heavy oil pans confiscated from all three of the Toyota Camrys owned by Joe Gibbs Racing, (JGR), prior to the start of the NASCAR weekend at the Michigan International Raceway.. It turned out to be a very expensive week for Coach Gibbs. From Pocono to Michigan, a period of five days, the tab has now hit $175,000 in NASCAR issued penalties.

This expensive process started following the June 12th race at the Pocono Raceway where JGR driver Kyle Busch finished third. However, a post race technical inspection indicated that the team's Toyota had exceeded NASCAR's official tolerances for body height. The left front of the Busch car was 1/16th of an inch too low. Crew chief Dave Rogers later speculated that the problem was based on a possible broken part sustained from racing on the aggressive Pocono Raceway.

None the less, the car was simply too low. The result was NASCAR fining Rogers $25,000 and, at the same time, docked Busch six driver's championship points and docked Gibbs six owner's championship points.

Now, fast forward to the Michigan International Raceway five days later. During a technical inspection, prior to the first scheduled practice session, it was discovered that the oil pans on all three of the Gibbs' cars were unapproved parts.

Simply put, all parts on a Sprint Cup car has to be officially approved and registered by NASCAR before it can be used on the race track. If a team wants to try a new or different part, they must first submit it to NASCAR for approval.

When the unapproved oil pans were discovered, NASCAR inspectors informed JGR to remove and replace them with the approved part which they promptly did. However, later that morning, NASCAR took the process a little bit further by weighing them. A standard, approved, oil pan for a Sprint Cup car weighs approximately four pounds. The three pans, confiscated from the JGR cars, weighed in at 20 to 30 pounds each. The pans were taken to the NASCAR Research and Development Center, in Concord-North Carolina, for a more detailed inspection.

Once the word got out, the conspiracy theorists went into overtime. Many of them pointed out that the heavier oil pans would allow the teams to move their car weights elsewhere, such as the front of the car, thereby creating a possible advantage in the car's overall handling package.

In the aftermath of that procedure came more penalties levied against JGR. Crew Chiefs Dave Rogers-car #18, Mike Ford-car #11 and Greg Zipadelli-car #20 were fined $50,000 each and placed on probation until December 31st, 2011.

Additionally the three JGR car chiefs: Chris Gillin-car #11, Wesley Sherrill-car #18 and Jason Shapiro-car #20, along with JGR Vice President of Racing Operations Jimmy Makar, were placed on probation until the end of the calendar year.

No driver or owner points were docked by NASCAR from this penalty decision. You're likely to hear some comments on that issue this weekend during the Sprint Cup race at the Infineon Raceway. The line of thinking here appears to lie in the fact that the JGR Toyotas, with the unapproved oil pans, never actually went out on the race track. That's basically a fair and understanding decision.

None the less team owner "Coach" Joe Gibbs is looking at unexpected expenditures of $175,000 accrued within a period of five days. The good news here lies in the fact that JGR driver Denny Hamlin won the Michigan race. With that comes a check worth $202,200. That will help Gibbs cover the NASCAR fines will some change leftover.

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