Jeff Hammond comments on Penske appeal loss
Former crew chief Jeff Hammond, a NASCAR analyst for both FOX & SPEED, talked to NASCAR Race Hub about NASCAR upholding the fines, penalties and suspensions levied on Penske Racing after unapproved suspension components were found following the Sprint Cup Series race from Texas Motor Speedway last month.
Penske Racing has one final appeal with National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer, John Middlebrook, which takes place Tuesday, May 7 at 10 a.m. ET.
Hammond spoke to NASCAR Race Hub co-hosts Steve Byrnes and Danielle Trotta on the ruling;
Your reaction to these penalties being unanimously upheld…
“I’m not shocked. I really felt like when I sat down with (Sprint Cup Director) John Darby and (NASCAR Vice President of Competition) Robin Pemberton and talked to them about the way the penalties were handed out, and my interpretation in the way they explained the parts as they saw them, I thought these guys (Penske) were really going to be fighting an uphill battle. The only thing that could have saved them, if these parts had been approved and, for some reason, that NASCAR had made a mistake; I think that was the thing Roger Penske was hoping for. Clearly, they (Penske) did their due diligence because it took a long time for them to get through this process, but the panel was not impressed with what they had to show.”
What kind of message does this send to the rest of the garage, as far as working in the ‘gray area?’
“As a guy that has bent the rules many, many times my entire career, (I) get it. It’s black and white. If it’s in the rulebook, you better listen to what the rules say. If there’s any question, you better raise your hand and ask for permission rather than ask for forgiveness. That is exactly what got this Penske organization in trouble; they felt that they could, by giving different parts and pieces to NASCAR and thinking that once they put the whole project together, it was still going to be okay in their (NASCAR’s) eyes. It wasn’t. They should have asked permission, and now they are trying to get forgiveness, and I’m not too sure they are going to get it. Their last hope is going to wind up being John Middlebrook.”
When does this become a distraction?
“I think it became a distraction when everybody understood that in Texas, they were in trouble and understood that this was going to wind up being a huge fine. The beginning of this whole deal was really becoming serious when NASCAR first implemented the penalties. Six races; that’s your crew chief, they should have known right then and there the best they could have hoped for was slight reduction to that. They needed to start making preparations right after that ruling came down. I think they’ve been up against it ever since that ruling was handed out. At the moment, they need to buckle down and realize, (they’re) probably fighting a losing battle, and in the best of any kind of scenario, they may get something reduced, but I don’t think the crew chiefs are going to get that kind of a break. I really believe they are going to be out for six weeks.
How do they handle this?
“If you’ve got good people, like a car chief, a great engineer, a good team manager; you can bench that crew chief. He can do a lot of things over a computer and talking during a course of a race - or a cell phone, as far as being involved in the race team. It can be very helpful. But when you start taking engineers out of play, and you start losing your head car (chief), that’s the thing that really hurts you the most because this guy is in charge of making sure every nut and bolt is right on this car, and that the preparation going into Sunday is basically finalized on going through inspection. NASCAR understands what they are doing to get the message sent to everybody in that garage area. You mess with this rulebook, you disregard this rulebook, you will pay the price.”
Do they have a shot at having the penalties reduced?
“All parts must be submitted in their entirety, and shown to be working according to NASCAR rules. They only way this part can work in the back of the car, which is basically up and down. I don’t think this part was designed this way, no matter what they say, and I think that’s a flagrant rules violation. I think that’s what’s going to keep them in this penalty situation, not getting any kind of relief.”