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“It was a simple oversight on TRD’s part and there was no intent to deceive, or to gain any type of competitive advantage,” White said. “Toyota is a company that was built on integrity, and that remains one of the guiding principles of the company. The goal of TRD has always been _ and will continue to be _ to build high-performance engines that are reliable, durable and powerful, and within the guidelines established by NASCAR.”

Elliott Sadler, in his first season driving for JGR’s Nationwide Series team, felt for teammate Kenseth.

“It’s tough if you’re Matt because you don’t have anything to do with the motor. That’s a TRD deal. It’s not a Gibbs deal,” Sadler said. “At Gibbs, we don’t even touch the motor. TRD brings the motor in and puts it in. We don’t even get to touch it. That’s a rule. A Gibbs employee doesn’t even touch that.”

It’s the second severe penalty against a Sprint Cup team levied by NASCAR in as many weeks.

It was Penske Racing and defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski who were punished last week after NASCAR said it found unapproved parts in the rear suspension of Keselowski and Joey Logano’s cars at Texas. NASCAR docked 25 points each the drivers, fined the crew chiefs $100,000 each and suspended seven Penske employees for six races. Penske Racing’s appeal is scheduled for May 1.

Those penalties were for alterations to the body of the car, particularly in an area NASCAR has been working the last year to police after teams found a way to manipulate the skew of the cars last season. Team owner Roger Penske has maintained the team was not cheating, but “working in a gray area” of the rule book.

It’s not clear if that argument will fly before the three-member appeal board, and the 2013 rule book was specifically tightened this season to add language specific to the rear suspension systems.

In the case of JGR and the engine, illegal is illegal and there is no gray area.

NASCAR has proven that through penalties before. The last violator, Carl Long, was severely punished when he was found to have an illegal engine at the 2009 All-Star Race. Long was docked 200 points _ which would be about 50 points under the current points system _ fined $200,000 and suspended for 12 races.

His suspension was reduced to eight races on appeal, but Long has said he is unable to pay the fine and can’t work in Sprint Cup until he settles the debt.

“We’ve always known the engine and tires are sacred ground. You don’t mess with the engine or the tires,” said former crew chief and current Fox analyst Larry McReynolds, who added that all eight connecting rods would have been light if TRD was trying to cheat.

“This was pure human error,” McReynolds said. “But in NASCAR’s defense, they can’t completely determine intent or non-intent. They absolutely should appeal. I’d primarily appeal Ratcliff’s suspension. He was an innocent bystander in this. The engine is a different deal than the rest of the car. If I was Joe Gibbs, I’d be pretty ticked off about losing my crew chief under these circumstances. This was an error but an enormously costly one.”

JGR has the means to pay the fine and the personnel to recover from this setback. The appeal would likely be to reduce the penalties on the argument it was TRD that erred and the team had no control or access to assembly of the engine.

Clint Bowyer, a Toyota driver for Michael Waltrip Racing, said it’s unfortunate so many employees are punished by NASCAR for one infraction.

“For the governing body, that’s a difficult situation knowing that a lot of guys that you’re penalizing don’t necessarily have anything to do with what’s inside those frame rails,” Bowyer said. “It’s tough. It’s unfortunate for Matt. Obviously it was a shock to all of us.”

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