NASCAR Upholds Suspensions for Front Row Motorsports After Auto Club Speedway Incident

by Caitlin Berard

NASCAR races are fast-paced, dangerous events. To drive on a NASCAR track is to put your safety at risk and the stakes are high. From the moment rubber meets road, every millisecond counts. To ensure both the safety and equality among the drivers, each driver must strictly adhere to the NASCAR Rule Book.

Even the smallest infraction can land a driver and/or their team in hot water with NASCAR officials, which is exactly what happened to Front Row Motorsports during the WISE Power 400 in Fontana. As Todd Gilliland flew around a turn in the Auto Club Speedway, his No. 38 Ford lost a wheel.

While relatively minor in comparison to a Big One (a crash involving five or more cars), the mishap was a direct violation of Section of the NASCAR Rule Book. The violation reads, “Loss or separation of an improperly installed tire/wheel from the vehicle.”

Unfortunately for Gilliland and the Front Row Motorsports team, the penalty for such a violation is suspension. For a whopping four races. Crew chief Seth Barbour, along with crew members Jourdan Osinskie and Tanner Andrews, faced these suspensions following the race.

Now, NASCAR does allow teams to appeal their sentences. However, less than 30% of these appeals are reduced or overturned. Every now and then, in fact, the penalties are increased.

After hearing from Front Row Motorsports, the NASCAR panelists denied the appeal, affirming the original penalty. On the bright side, the suspensions weren’t increased, and the WISE Power 400 was almost three weeks ago, so Barbour and Co. will be back in pit road before they know it.

Kaulig Racing Faces Suspensions Similar to Front Row Motorsports

As frustrating as the heavy penalties against Front Row Motorsports are, they’re far from the only team facing such consequences. During the 2022 Cup Series opener, the Daytona 500, Kaulig Racing driver Justin Haley suffered an almost identical issue.

While speeding along the track, one of the wheels detached from Haley’s No. 31 Chevrolet. And, like Front Row Motorsports, the team’s crew chief and two of its crew members were suspended for four races. Kaulig Racing, of course, tried to appeal the sentence, but was denied.

Though the penalty cost Kaulig Racing greatly, the team’s president stood by NASCAR’s final ruling. “We respect NASCAR’s decision on the appeal,” said Chris Rice, Kaulig Racing president. “We will take the penalty, move on, and work hard to be better.”

Corey LaJoie, whose team also violated Section had a much different take on the punishment passed down by NASCAR officials. “There was way too many penalties and way too many conversations we had about lug nuts, cutting threads, lug lengths, and all this stuff that teams were fooling around with trying to find two, three-tenths [of a second] during a pit stop,” the No. 7 driver said. “The rule was made to deter crew chiefs from telling the tire changers to hit three and send it because it made the pit stop a second faster.”