NASCAR Richmond 2013: Gibbs worried about the impact penalties will have on his team

Robert Laberge

Joe Gibbs says his team had no intention of cheating and is worried that the severity of the penalties will affect his reputation.

Joe Gibbs sees the penalties levied against his team by NASCAR as more than just a hurdle it must overcome.

He also sees it as an affront to his reputation.

While the owner of Joe Gibbs Racing doesn't dispute his team had an engine rod underweight, he contends that there was no effort to deceive NASCAR, which discovered the infraction following Matt Kenseth's victory Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

"When you have motor experts look at it, basically what they would say is there is no advantage of having that one light rod in that motor," Gibbs said Friday at Richmond International Raceway. "That's one thing that's very, very important to me. The intent here was not to get an unfair advantage in any way."

But NASCAR doesn't judge on intent, it only looks at the definition of whether something is legal or not.

This is the reason why Kenseth was docked 50 points and crew chief Jason Ratcliff fined $200,000 and suspended six weeks in addition to Gibbs not being allowed to collect owner points on the No. 20 car for six weeks.

Intent does matter to Gibbs, however.

Several times during his press conference he mentioned the word, stressing while he accepts NASCAR's findings he does not agree with the punishment.

Although JGR is appealing the penalties, it's doing so mainly due to the severity of the sanctions and because it wants to protect a reputation that is among the best in the garage.

"I think I'm more focused on how does it affect all of our partners and our employees," Gibbs said. "This is very, very important and probably one of the bigger things that's happened in my life professionally."

When Kenseth spoke publically for the first time about the penalties, he made it clear he wasn't concerned about how it impacted himself. He was more concerned for his car owner, who now had the stigma for being labeled a cheater for something he had no control over.

This sentiment was shared by Ratcliff, who on Friday expressed his dismay that the character of his boss was being threatened.

"This isn't right," he said. "This isn't right for a team owner and you look at the penalty and you say, 'Well, it's $200,000.' No, it's much bigger than that. You sit down and you add up what it costs to not have the opportunity that the rest of the teams in the garage have to win an owner's championship -- owner's championship pays a lot of money.

"Not only that, it affects all of Joe Gibbs Racing, it affects our sponsors long term. Again, it's harsh and for me, I take that, I raised my hand as the crew chief on the 20 car and take responsibility. I know the rule book and it's my responsibility to make sure all the parts and pieces are correct. For Joe, it's totally uncalled for."

Gibbs referred to this incident as a mistake and said Toyota is a "great partner" and that this would have no bearing on JGR's relationship with the manufacturer going forward.

"We believe that we are going to be together for a long time," he said. "We have a long time partnership and we want to make sure we handle everything the right way and we want to make sure that we handle these things the way good partners do."

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