The #51 Rick Ware Racing team was issued a huge points penalty after the NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway. But could that help Rick Ware Racing in the long run?
These penalties were issued as a result of the fact that the #51 Ford failed technical inspection four times prior to Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session.
In addition to the points penalties, which were announced earlier this week, Ware was not allowed to post a qualifying lap around the 12-turn, 1.99-mile (3.203-kilometer) road course in Sonoma, California, forcing him to start the 110-lap race in 36th (last) place.
He was also required to serve a pass-through penalty after the green flag flew, and engineer Steve Gray was also ejected.
The points penalty didn’t do much to Ware in the driver standings, as he was already sitting in 32nd (last) place among full-time drivers. The only differences are that with 119 points instead of 139, he sits 66 points behind Spire Motorsports’ Corey LaJoie for 31st and just 15 points ahead of Live Fast Motorsports’ B.J. McLeod in 33rd.
The key impact here came in the owner standings, where the #51 team dropped from 35th to 36th (last) place among the charter teams.
But in a roundabout way, this penalty may end up helping Rick Ware Racing as a whole.
Prior to the penalty, the #51 team sat 22 points outside of the top 33 in the owner standings. The significance of the top 33 is that if a charter team finishes in the bottom three (between 34th and 36th place) among the charter teams for three straight seasons, NASCAR has the right to repossess that team’s charter.
Currently sitting in 33rd place is the #15 Rick Ware Racing team, which finished outside of the top 33 last year. The #15 team sits just four points ahead of the #77 Spire Motorsports team in 34th.
With the #51 team, which finished in the top 33 among the charter teams last year, being docked 20 points, that team is now 42 points behind the #15 team and much less of a threat to overtake the #15 team before the season ends.
The other team outside of the top 33 is the #78 Live Fast Motorsports team, which now sits two points ahead of the #51 team and 40 points outside of the top 33.
Yes, the penalty means that the #51 team will likely finish outside of the top 33, but Rick Ware Racing would rather have this happen than have the #15 team finish outside of the top 33 for a second straight season.
Of course, the #15 team could still drop out of the top 33, with the #77 team lurking just four points behind. But this team now appears to be the only serious threat to bump the #15 team out.