By Deb Williams | first writer
CONCORD, NC – NASCAR assessed severe penalties Tuesday against Stewart-Haas Racing, driver Cole Custer and crew chief Michael Shiplett for an accident during the final lap of the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Custer was fined $100,000 and 50 points. Shiplett was also fined $100,000 and suspended indefinitely from NASCAR. SHR lost 50 money points.
SHR appealed the ruling.
Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president for the competition, said audio from the Custer and Chase Briscoe SHR teams was examined as well as video and data from Custer’s vehicle.
The video showed Custer significantly slowing down, blocking Austin Dillon and Eric Jones who was on Dillon’s bumper. This allowed Briscoe to pass all three before entering into a back stretch.
“Obviously we found some things that we felt we had to respond to,” Miller said. “The statements were very expressive, and then when we got to the audio recording and asked the crew chief to tell the driver that ‘I think you should do a full check, check, check’ when he can’t even see the car or have any idea at all that the car might have an apartment.” (And that) tells us a lot about what happened there.
“Nothing contradicts the fact that it was done on purpose by these guys, so we definitely had to react. We can’t have teams fiddling with the finishing order. A blatant withdrawal and changing the finishing order on the last lap is what makes him over the top especially with the instructions given. from the pit box.”
Miller said NASCAR discussed Custer’s suspension but decided to go along with precedent that showed the only time a driver has been suspended in the past was due to “extremely obscene things” that eliminated other competitors or because of actions that were “dangerous in nature.”
They also listened to Briscoe’s team’s transmissions and found “nothing we can even remotely refer to as any kind of scandalous conversation on the radio.” Miller said officials ruled out punishing Briscoe “too early” in the process once they realized Briscoe was going to advance to the quarter-finals either way. If Briscoe and Kyle Larson tied, Briscoe would have earned a quarter-final entry in the tiebreak. However, Larson’s finishing order left two points below the cut-off line.
Miller said this was different from last year’s incident in Bristol when Chase Elliott blocked Kevin Harvick, allowing Hendrik Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson to catch and eventually pass for victory because Elliott’s actions did not occur as a result of orders from the pit box. Elliott’s decision came after he and Harvick got tangled up during the race for the lead.
The penalty assessed SHR was similar to an incident at Richmond Raceway in September 2013 when Michael Waltrip Racing was penalized for intentionally changing the outcome of a race. Clint Boyer manipulated the closing laps of the race for a warning that allowed teammate Martin Truex Jr. to snatch the lead from Ryan Newman and finish last in qualifying. Once NASCAR came to a determination that MWR had rigged the race’s termination, they added Newman to the qualifiers.
In other penalties issued Tuesday, NASCAR Xfinity Series No. 10 crew chief Alexander Yuntz was fined $5,000 for a loose nut. Crewman Eric Woods has received an indefinite suspension from NASCAR for a behavior issue.