UPDATE: Wednesday, October 12, 2022, at 4:00 PM ET –
About 24 hours after the penalties to Stewart-Haas Racing were assessed, the four-car operation released a statement from Chief Competition Officer, Greg Zipadelli:
“Stewart-Haas Racing denies any wrongdoing and will vigorously defend its personnel against these allegations in its appeal with NASCAR.”
— Greg ZIpadelli, Chief Competition Officer, Stewart-Haas Racing
UPDATE: Tuesday, October 11, 2022, at 4:40 PM ET —
In a Zoom teleconference with the media, Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition says the sanctioning body was able to determine that Cole Custer had intended to alter the outcome of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, thanks to all of the tools at their disposal in 2022.
“[Custer] slowed abruptly over there on the back straightaway, sort of blocking the No. 3 and allowing as a mechanism of that, the No. 14 went by the No. 41 and the No. 3,” Miller explained. “Obviously, with all the data we have available to us now, data coming off the car for brakes, steering, throttle and all of the audio. We dug into all of that and obviously found some things that we felt like we had to react to.”
Miller said there was no chance the actions of Custer on the final lap of the race were coincidence.
“The data was pretty telling, and then when we got to the audio and to have the crew chief telling the driver, ‘I think you’ve got a flat. Check up, check up, check up,’ when he couldn’t even see the car or have any idea whatsoever that the car might have a flat. Pretty obviously pretty telling as to what went on there,” Miller stated.
Here is video of the final lap paired with Custer’s No. 41 team’s radio communications courtesy of FOX Sports’ NASCAR RaceHub:
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) October 11, 2022
Miller says NASCAR debated whether or not to suspend Custer in addition to crew chief Mike Shiplett following the investigation of the last lap of the Bank of America Roval 400, where NASCAR determined that Custer had altered the finish of the race by helping his teammate Chase Briscoe.
Ultimately, NASCAR decided not to suspend Custer due to past precedent only dictating a suspension for a driver following, “dangerous,” or, “Super flagrant,” issues that were done with the intent to eliminate another driver from contention.
Stewart-Haas Racing will appeal the penalties levied by NASCAR on Tuesday.
As for why Briscoe didn’t receive a penalty, Miller says it’s because at no point was Briscoe told on his radio that his teammates would help him. As such, NASCAR felt it was not a coordinated situation.
NASCAR also did not consider removing Briscoe from the Round of 8 of the Playoffs and adding Kyle Larson, who was the first driver outside the cut line because, in NASCAR’s opinion, the number of positions that Briscoe gained with the help of Custer did not impact who ultimately made the Playoff Round of 8 field.
Briscoe gained two positions on the last lap, which equates to two points. Briscoe advanced by two points over Larson, but he had the tie breaker due to having a better finish in the Round of 12.
Miller says had Custer’s actions impacted the final result of the Round of 8 field, the penalty would have been much larger.
For those wondering why Chase Elliott, who impacted the finish of the night race at Bristol last season, wasn’t penalized for blocking Kevin Harvick, which led to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson winning, Miller addressed that as well.
According to Miller, “That was the driver taking some things into his own hands.” Miller says that the team did not instruct Elliott to impact Harvick’s potential race win.
Harvick, who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing made the Playoffs a season ago, but the lack of a win impacted his ability to advance past the Round of 12. It also led to Harvick’s first winless NASCAR Cup Series season since 2009.
ORIGINAL STORY: Tuesday, October 11, 2022, at 4:11 PM ET
NASCAR has finished its review of Cole Custer’s finish from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America Roval 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, and on Tuesday they threw the book at Custer and the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team.
NASCAR found Custer and the No. 41’s crew chief Mike Shiplett to be in violation of Sections 4.3.A; 4.4.C & 5.5, which pertain to the NASCAR Member Code of Conduct / Performance Obligation.
Section 4.3.A of the NASCAR Rulebook reads NASCAR Membership is a privilege. With that privilege comes certain benefits, responsibilities, and obligations. Correct and proper conduct, both on and off the racetrack, is part of a Member’s responsibilities. A Member’s actions can reflect upon the sport as a whole and on other NASCAR Members. Ideally, NASCAR Members are role models for the many fans who follow this sport, regardless of the type of license a Member may hold, or the specific Series in which a Member may participate. Therefore, NASCAR views a Member’s conduct, both on and off the racetrack, which might constitute a behavioral Rules violation under this Rule Book with great importance.
Section 4.4.C reads Member actions that could result in a loss of 25-50 driver and Team Owner Points and $50,000-$100,000 fine. Violations may also result in Race suspension(s), indefinite suspension, or termination.
The part of this section that was violated per NASCAR was: Attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Race or championship.
Section 5.5 reads
A. NASCAR requires its Competitor(s) to race at 100% of their ability with the goal of achieving their best possible finishing position in the Event.
B. Any Competitor(s) who takes action with the intent to Artificially Alter the finishing positions of the Event or encourages, persuades or induces others to Artificially Alter the finishing positions of the Event shall be subject to a penalty from NASCAR, as specified in Section 10 Violations and Disciplinary Action.
C. “Artificially Alter” shall be defined as actions by any Competitor(s) that show or suggest that the Competitor(s) did not race at 100% of their ability for the purpose of changing finishing positions in the Event, in NASCAR’s sole discretion.
Custer has been fined a total of $100,000 and he has been docked 50 driver points. The No. 41 team has also been docked 50 owner points, and Custer’s crew chief Mike Shiplett has been fined an additional $100,000 and has been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR.
The review of the finish of Sunday’s race came after Custer’s actions on the final lap of the race were brought into question. It appeared that Custer, who was running ahead of his teammate Chase Briscoe, who was attempting to advance to the Round of 8 of the Playoffs, slowed to let his teammate go by, and then played defense by blocking the gaggle of drivers attempting to get by Briscoe.
This helped Briscoe gain a couple of positions on the racetrack and it provided him breathing room on the back half of the final lap so he could finish the race with no pressure from behind.
Following Sunday’s race, NASCAR stated that they would be reviewing in-car telemetry data, video, and radio communications for the No. 41 team to determine if a penalty was necessary. That review led to the penalties announced on Tuesday.
There were a couple of other infractions listed on NASCAR’s weekly penalty report.
Alex Yontz, the crew chief of the No. 10 Kaulig Racing entry, which is driven by Landon Cassill, in the NASCAR Xfinity Series was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut following Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at the Charlotte Roval.
Also Eric Woods, the hauler driver for Big Machine Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, has been indefinitely suspended by NASCAR due to a violation of NASCAR’s substance abuse policy (SAP).