Penske Team Hit With Harsh Penalties by NASCAR
- Penske Racing was penalized heavily for use of unapproved rear-end components during the past weekend's racing events at Texas Motor Speedway.
- Drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano suffered points losses and their crew chiefs were fined and suspended for six races.
- Five other crew members from the Penske organization were suspended.
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — The drama at the start of the NRA 500 at Texas Speedway Saturday night had precisely the anticipated follow-up Wednesday when NASCAR hit the Penske Racing team with severe penalties.
Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano were penalized 25 points each in driver standings and seven crew members — including the crew chiefs and car chiefs on both cars — were suspended for six races.
Crew chiefs Paul Wolfe (Keselowski) and Todd Gordon (Logano) were also fined $100,000 each.
There was a stir when both Penske cars were late to the starting grid after failing pre-race tech inspection. The issue was the use of unapproved rear suspension parts, which had to be removed and replaced.
The penalties constitute one of the harshest hits for a NASCAR race team in the history of the sport, eclipsed only by driver suspensions in recent years for substance abuse and in the sport's early years, when three drivers — including superstars Curtis Turner and Fireball Roberts and two-time champion Tim Flock — were banned for life for trying to organize NASCAR drivers into a branch of Jimmy Hoffa's Teamsters Union.
Roberts was immediately reinstated and Turner was allowed to return after four years, but Flock never returned.
Penske Racing will appeal the penalties, hoping for a reduction in the severity such as the relief the Hendrick Motorsports team received last year when it appealed penalties levied against the team of five-time champion Jimmie Johnson at the Daytona 500.
The NASCAR "rap sheet," the weekly announcement of penalties, usually is released on Tuesdays. It came a day late this time, largely because of a ceremonial visit to the White House and a meeting with President Obama by Keselowski and his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion.
Logano said the team would move ahead.
"Penske Racing has a lot of depth inside the company, and we can make adjustments to make sure we still run well," he said. "I think it goes to show, we made some adjustments before the race started and we still were able to come home with a top-five finish."
Curiously, NASCAR took no punitive action against Keselowski for a profanity-laced tirade against the sanctioning body after Saturday night's race, in which the Penske cars finished 5th (Logano) and 8th (Keselowski).
Keselowski said the Penske team was being "targeted" by NASCAR. He alluded to a pit-road penalty he sustained a week earlier (video replays clearly showed he was not guilty of the violation) and the pre-race drama at Texas. Logano had to start at the back of the 43-car pack because his car was still clearing tech inspection when the command was given for drivers to start their engines.
NASCAR Chairman Brian France said before Tuesday's White House event that Keselowski would not be fined for his remarks.
Edmunds says: NASCAR is more than a decade into a period of extreme micromanagement of technical rules, as evidenced by the weekly "rap sheet." Hardly a race goes by without at least one violation being punished. Whether that policy is protecting the sport's integrity or damaging it is up to the observer to decide.