Mike Helton: NASCAR not undermined

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- NASCAR president Mike Helton insists the governing body did not have its power undermined by recent reductions in penalties through the appeal process.

"I don't feel like this in anyway undermines what we do," Helton said Friday at Darlington Raceway. "And in most cases the process doesn't come back with anything that really changes our mind much [about the severity of the penalties].

"We do our job and the due process exists for others to have an opportunity for others to listen to it and decisions are made to it."

On Tuesday, Penske Racing had the suspensions of seven crew members for the Sprint Cup teams of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano reduced from six to two for penalties stemming from the April 13 race at Texas.

On Wednesday, the National Stock Car Racing Commission panel significantly reduced or overturned a majority of the penalties and suspensions given to Matt Kenseth's team following the April 21 race at Kansas.

"I don't agree an element has been stripped out of the rule making process nor our ability to regulate the sport," Helton said. "It's part of the due process, and that's how we look at it."

While disappointed in both reductions, Helton stands by the original penalties and says NASCAR would respond in a similar way if faced with the same violations.

"Across the board, we put a lot of thought into our reaction to start with," Helton said. "Every time something like this happens we put a lot of thought into it.

"The circumstances of each element is so different it's due that respect. But when we do make a decision it's well thought out and we'll stick by our decisions, and also understand the due process has the opportunity to change it."

The Penske cars were found to be in violation for unapproved rear end housings that were confiscated prior to the Texas race. The engine in Kenseth's winning car at Kansas was discovered to have a connecting rod that weighed 2.7 grams under the legal limit.

NASCAR, particularly in violations involving the engine, has come down hard on violators. Helton indicated that won't stop.

He added that the rules may be written even more specific in the future so teams and those involved in the appeals process understand more clearly why the penalties were given.

"First of all, the integrity of the appeal process needs to be maintained as independent of the regulating arm of NASCAR,'' Helton said. "But we do learn from the appeal process as to how we may be able to write or be more clear so that you can show a third party why we reacted the way we reacted."

Asked what specifically needed to be clarified as it related to the recent penalties, Helton said, "Everything."

"The recent appeals are around specific parts and pieces,'' he continued. "Around the engine area all of motorsports, from the go-karts at the grass roots level to the weekly tracks to all the national series that exist, the engines are understood to be in that Holy Grail bucket.

"We need to make sure we maintain responsibility around the engine to be shared by the competitors."

In regards to Ryan Newman not being fined for critical comments on NASCAR's decision to restart Sunday's Talladega race so close to darkness and the craziness that happened in the final laps -- Kurt Busch's car went airborne and barrel-rolled onto the hood of Newman's car -- Helton said he had not talked to the Stewart-Haas Racing driver.

But Helton indicated Newman's comments were discussed.

"We've told our drivers all along you can challenge us, you can challenge NASCAR and our calls or us to a certain extent," he said. "Whether or not this has been pushed to the edge or not that's been debated.

"But what you cannot do is criticize the product. Our determination in Ryan's case is he was challenging us."