One day after NASCAR imposed severe penalties on both himself and his Joe Gibbs Racing team, Matt Kenseth left no doubt about what he thought of the sanctions.
"I think the penalties were grossly unfair," Kenseth said Thursday at Richmond International Raceway. "It's borderline shameful."
The penalties came following Kenseth's victory Sunday at Kansas Speedway when NASCAR, as it does every week, took the race-winning car back to its Research and Development Center for further inspection.
It was then determined that one of the eight rods connected to Kenseth's engine was underweight by 2.7 grams.
From there, NASCAR issued penalties which included docking Kenseth 50 points -- he only got 48 for winning the race -- suspending crew chief Jason Ratcliff six races and fining him $200,000. Team owner Joe Gibbs also had his owner's license taken away for six weeks, meaning the No. 20 car can't accumulate points in that span.
The punishment was jarring in its scope and from Kenseth's viewpoint, unjust.
"I just think that the penalty is way over the top for that," Kenseth said. "It wasn't anything about trying to gain an advantage. It wasn't an advantage, it was a mistake. That should have been taken into account."
Kenseth concedes that his team broke a rule by having a part too light. And he even accepts that there should be some sort penalty. But what he doesn't understand is why, for something that had no impact on the performance level of the car, NASCAR reacted the way it did.
"Anybody in the garage -- any knowledgeable, reputable, unbiased engine builder -- they know there was no advantage," he said. "If anything, there was probably a disadvantage there, if nothing else, for it being unbalanced."
In a mood that can best be described as dejected, Kenseth admitted that he was "distracted" by the events. More than anything, though, he felt bad for the impact the penalties will have on his car owner and crew chief.
"I can't get my arms around that," Kenseth said. "I couldn't feel any worse. There's no more reputable, honorable, hard-working guy than them two.
"The penalty to Coach (Gibbs), because of something he knew nothing about and it is not a performance advantage, to say he cannot win the owner's championship for a guy that has been this big of a supporter to NASCAR the past 22 years, man, that's a tough one to figure out."
JGR is planning on filing a formal appeal. At the very least, Kenseth is looking to see a reduction in the penalties and hopes "we get someone who is reasonable."
For now, he's trying to focus his attention on this weekend. While he may have a hard time focusing at the moment, when he takes to the track Friday for practice he says his attention will be solely on climbing out of the hole he suddenly finds himself in.
"Honestly, I feel I have the strongest race team in the garage," Kenseth said. "If anyone can come back from it and get us in a spot to win the championship, it's my group.
"By tomorrow morning, we're going to be ready. If it's possible, I think we're motivated and determined more than ever."