Kahne: NASCAR appeals have no shot of success
Asked Wednesday for his take on NASCAR's appeals process, Kasey Kahne took the atypical approach of skipping the politics and stabbing straight to the core.
"My take is you don't have a shot when you go in," he said, stone-faced, other than a slight grin at the corner of his mouth.
He isn't kidding. Kahne felt Evernham Motorsports carried a solid argument into the March 5 appeals hearing for the unapproved aerodynamic devices found on his No. 9 Dodge during prequalifying inspection for the Daytona 500, which resulted in hefty sanctions by NASCAR.
NASCAR penalized Kahne 50 driver points, docked team owner Ray Evernham 50 owner points, fined the team $50,000 and sent crew chief and team director Kenny Francis home for a month. That penalty was upheld at the appeal hearing.
What was the reasoning given for upholding the penalties?
"There was no answer [why]," Kahne said. "I did talk to a few people that were part of that [appeal], and they said you basically have a losing cause. If you're not going to take the best case in the world you're not going to win."
Told of Kahne's comments, NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston defended the appeals process and the people running it.
"The NASCAR commission is independent, and they operate with a three-person panel to hear all sides of the argument," Poston said. "They make the best judgment they can based on the evidence, and have in the past overturned NASCAR rulings."
One such instance came two years ago, when the National Stock Car Commission overturned suspensions for Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs Chad Knaus and Alan Gustafson. This was a significant decision, because NASCAR doesn't often get overruled.
At the time, veteran motorsports crew chief-turned-FOX analyst Jeff Hammond wrote on foxsports.com: "Everybody always used to say that that board was going to do exactly what the competition director instructed them to do. But I applaud them for reviewing the evidence and making a good decision using common sense."
"The commission is there for teams to dispute penalties. It's one that we think is very important for the team and industry to have," Poston added. "Look at the list of commission members. These are individuals that are well-respected and known for their integrity."
According to the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup rule book, the 32-person list includes the likes of former Cup star Buddy Baker, Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell, ESPN analyst Brad Daugherty, former Cup star Harry Gant, Talladega Superspeedway president Grant Lynch, former Cup Series owner Bud Moore, former NASCAR vice president of competition Les Richter and Lowe's Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler.
Evernham told ESPN prior to the hearing that today's climate makes points entirely too precious, and that's all he sought to recoup in the appeal. Kahne backed that up Wednesday.
"We took a great case," Kahne said. "Everything was right there. Ray was asking for points. He wasn't asking for everything. The money? He gave it away. He was just trying to get some of those points back and try to figure out why they took so much from us for such a little deal."
From the outset of the season, NASCAR officials said the sanctioning body would continue to ratchet up penalties until teams got the message.
No question, points penalties send the message. But in this instance, given precedence, Kahne said the penalty was entirely too harsh.
"Points get your attention. That's a good thing," he said. "But when you look at what we did and what other teams did in the past, and you see that they got a $5,000 penalty and that's it, and we have a huge penalty and huge points and lost a crew chief for four weeks, you go, 'Wow over a piece of tape that NASCAR had us put over it, that flew off?' That's wrong."
The penalties were upheld, and thus are part of the reason Kahne is on the brink of top-35 purgatory.
"It comes down to [the penalty] -- it's not good, but it comes down to our performances, our finishes," he said. "It rubs me a lot rawer that we haven't had Kenny Francis for four weeks over something so stupid as the reason we don't have him."
Marty Smith covers Nextel Cup racing for ESPN.com .