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Jim Utter

NASCAR's Sawyer: "Culture" in race shops needs to change

NASCAR on Wednesday issued one of its largest penalties to Stewart-Haas Racing and driver Chase Briscoe after the discovery of a counterfeit engine panel duct and underwing on the No. 14 Ford.

The team was stripped of 120 driver and owner points and 25 playoff points. Crew chief John Klausmeier was suspended for six weeks and fined $250,000.

The part was discovered during an intense teardown inspection at NASCAR’s R&D Center in Concord, N.C., following Monday’s rain-delayed Coca-Cola 600. SHR has said it will not appeal the penalties.

“This is not something that we have seen in the past,” said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition. “It’s a single-source part that you cannot fabricate, you cannot mess with, you cannot counterfeit.

“We’ve been very clear with that.”

Sawyer said NASCAR had been sending the message with large penalties to steer teams away from trying to manufacture or design their own parts to their cars.

“The culture that was in our garage and our race teams shops on the Gen 6 car was more of a manufacturing facility. The Next Gen car – that’s not the business model,” he said.

“The race teams – and they’re doing a better job, but we still have a lot of work to do – they have to change that culture within the walls of the race shop.”

Sawyer emphasized NASCAR would much rather the conversation around the sport be focused on the competition than teams trying to skirt the rules.

“We would much rather be talking about the phenomenal racing than about penalties,” he said. “But for us to keep this car in the box it needs to be in, we as a sanctioning body need to stay on top of it.

“We’re the custodians of the garage. We’re the custodians of this car. What we have to continue to do – and we will – is to continue to show the garage that we will not get lazy.

“We will continue to bring cars back to the R&D Center. We will continue to look at them and we’ll continue to write penalties if they continue to do the things they are doing.”

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