Does the punishment match the crime for Martin Truex Jr.?

On Wednesday, Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief, Cole Pearn, was fined and suspended after NASCAR took issue with the team’s roof flaps for two consecutive weeks.

David Hurlbut was joined by The Morning Huddle’s resident NASCAR expert, Joe Benton, to discuss how penalties are handled under the relatively new rules.

In 2014 NASCAR adopted the current penalty structure after years of seemingly arbitrary fines and penalties. Under the current system, penalties range from P1 to P6. P1 level penalties are used for the least severe infractions and usually result in probation and light fines, if any. P6 level infractions sit on the opposite end of the spectrum and result in large fines and suspensions among other punishments.

“It’s probably a little bit more severe because they got tagged with almost the same violation at the Daytona 500 which is why Pearn was put on probation in the first place and his probation runs to the end of the season,” Benson said. “So the very next race they get busted for almost the same violation and so I think that’s why NASCAR threw the book at them.”

The penalty was originally a P2 level infraction and only placed Pearn on year-long probation. After the same issue was found during the next race, NASCAR escalated in the penalty to a P3 level and suspended Pearn for one race. Pearn was also fined $50,000, while Truex and Furniture Row were docked 15 driver and 15 owner points respectively. The loss in points drops Truex from second in the standings to eighth overall, and he now trails the championship leader by 18 points.

“I was kind of surprised at the severity of the penalty myself,” Benton said. “It’s a middle of the road penalty, but I don’t think it should have been slapped that hard down on them.”

Historically, during the short time under NASCAR’s new penalty structure, warnings and penalties, if received in consecutive weeks, do stack and result in an escalation in penalty. The $50,000 fine is the maximum amount allowed under the P3 level penalty and even exceeds the minimum fine of a P4 level penalty. NASCAR’s penalty system does, however, incorporate an appeals system.

“When you announce in NASCAR that you’re going to appeal a penalty, they will allow you to continue racing until the appeal is heard and then a little tribunal hears your side of the case and NASCAR’s side of the case,” Benton said.

Furniture Row has said they would appeal the penalty, which will allow Pearn to crew chief at the Las Vegas Speedway this weekend. Appealing penalties can, however, involve risk.

“They’ve redacted penalties before and they’ve stiffened penalties before,” Benson said.

Listen to the full discussion in the podcast below…

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