A member of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel upheld penalties Wednesday against the Niece Motorsports No. 44 team for violations found in post-race inspection after last Sunday’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series event at Iowa Speedway.
The Al Niece-owned truck was found to be too low in the front after Ross Chastain drove it to an apparent victory in Sunday’s M&M’s 200 at the .875-mile track. Competition officials disqualified Chastain and the Niece organization, handing the win to Brett Moffitt, who was scored second as the checkered flag unfurled.
In filing the expedited appeal, Niece indicated that it planned to argue that minor damage during the course of the 200-lap race caused the No. 44 Chevrolet to fail the minimum height requirement. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series does not have a ride-height rule, but those guidelines exist in the Xfinity and Gander Trucks tours.
Wednesday’s appeal was heard by Bryan Moss, the former Gulfstream Aerospace president who was appointed as the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer in 2014. His ruling is final and cannot be appealed. Under this type of appeals process, the burden of proof rested with NASCAR to demonstrate that a rules violation had occurred and that the penalty was appropriate.
Niece Motorsports representatives, including Chastain, released a statement through social media shortly after the hearing’s outcome was announced.
Chastain and Niece were also stripped of their two stage wins, stage points and any benefits from the victory that would apply to playoff eligibility. Chastain was demoted to a last-place finish in the 32-truck field, earning five championship points, and all other drivers were moved up by one position in the finishing order. Officials also redistributed stage wins to ThorSport Racing teammates Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes.
Chastain recently changed his series eligibility, declaring June 4 that he would collect points toward the Gander Trucks championship after opening the season with a focus on the NASCAR Xfinity Series. That left the 26-year-old driver with the challenge of starting with zero points midway through the regular season, requiring him to win and move into the top 20 in the series standings to qualify for the eight-driver playoff field.
Chastain had already scored a Gander Trucks victory this season, prevailing May 10 at Kansas Speedway for the first win of his career in the series. But that triumph did not carry championship implications as Chastain was eligible for Xfinity Series points at the time.
The last time an apparent NASCAR national-series winner was disqualified was when the Emerald Performance Group’s No. 19 Chevrolet driven by Mike Skinner was found with an unapproved cylinder head in an Xfinity Series race in March 1999 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Three days after that decision, the penalty was overturned in an appeal and Skinner was restored as the race winner.
The last national-series disqualification that was upheld came in August 1995 after Dale Jarrett’s first-finishing No. 32 Ford was penalized for an illegal intake manifold at Michigan International Speedway. Mark Martin inherited the victory.