ThorSport Racing wants NASCAR to put Johnny Sauter and Grant Enfinger back into the Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoffs.
The ThorSport Racing teammates were eliminated following the last race on Sept. 15 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway as a result of widespread engine failures from the Ilmor spec powerplant program.
This is not like an engine failure in the Monster Energy Cup Series or Xfinity Series, which use manufacturer-produced engines, becauseÂ the entire point of a spec option is to limit cost and emphasize reliability.
In a joint press release, Ilmor and NASCAR cited desert temperatures and high engine load conditions as the reasons numerous engines failed — including those from Youngâs Motorsports. In other words, it wasnât the result of teams trying to find a competitive edge.
As a result, ThorSport team owner Duke Thorson believes his team was unjustly eliminated and should be reinserted back into the playoffs.
That sentiment was echoed by team general manager David Pepper, who also cited the same rule as a reason NASCAR needs to keep his two drivers championship eligible. He appreciates NASCAR and Ilmor taking a degree of responsibility but said it wasnât enough.
“We would like to see a little more done from our partners at NASCAR,” Pepper told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Thursday night. “There is a little-known rule in that has been exercised multiple times throughout the history of NASCAR — 1.6 C and D — the Except in Rare Instances rule, which we’re kind of pushing and trying to get NASCAR to react to here while we have a week and a half before we go to Talladega because weâve been eliminated from the playoffs and it was none of our doing.”
Specifically, Pepper wants NASCAR to extend the elimination race from last month at Las Vegas to the penultimate race of the season — at Phoenix Raceway. It has until the next Truck Series race, at Talladega on Oct.Â 12, to convince NASCAR of making the changes.
In doing so, Enfinger and Sauter would still be penalized for their poor finishes, as a result of an expired spec engine, but they will have two races to make up for it.
In an interview with NASCAR.com, Truck Series tour director Brad Moran said a playoff redo of any kind isnât going to happen.
“We donât have that opportunity of a redo,” Moran said. “The playoffs are points earned throughout the season starting at Daytona, stage wins, race wins — thatâs what gets you into the Round of 8. After that, itâs a three-race series, so itâs not just the one race.
“Unfortunately, we just donât have that ability to pull a redo on something like this without affecting the rest of the garage or players that are in there. So, it wasnât a one-race deal. Itâs just a real unfortunate incident, but a mechanical issue that took out two of their trucks.”
It’s also worth noting that there is precedent for the Except in Rare Instances rule, which was utilized in 2013 when NASCAR placed Jeff Gordon as the 13th driver in a 12-driver playoff following the Spingate controversy, in which Clint Bowyer intentionally spun his carÂ to assist Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex in making the playoffs.
The tactic worked, but NASCAR found out due to radio communication between the teams, leading to NASCAR penalizing Bowyer to the point he could not win the championships and adding Gordon as a 13th contender since Truex advanced over the four-time champion.
“There have been exceptions for ages,” Pepper added. “There’s been exceptions for injuries and broken legs, and in one instance, we’ve actually placed a driver back into the points who didn’t have enough points at the time to be in in the playoffs.
“We don’t want to reset or a reshuffle. We’d like to go to Talladega in the next three races and be allowed to be back into the playoffs — eliminate four teams at Phoenix (instead of two) and we’ll take our last place finishes at Las Vegas and allow our teams to race and compete. And if we’re eliminated in the next three weeks on our own merit by our fellow competitors, then so be it.
“But let the racing and the championship be decided on the race track by the competitors, not by outside pieces and parts that have dictated what and where we are at this point.”