NASCAR punishes Penske drivers for Texas missteps
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — NASCAR came down hard with far-reaching penalties against Penske Racing on Wednesday, with six-race suspensions for seven crew members of defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano along with $200,000 in fines for bringing unapproved parts to Texas Motor Speedway for last weekend's race.
Each driver and car owner was docked 25 championship points, dropping Keselowski from second to fourth in the Cup standings and Logano from ninth 14th.
Along with the $100,000 fine they each got, Keselowski crew chief Paul Wolfe and Logano crew chief Todd Gordon were suspended for the next six championship points races and placed on probation for the rest of the calendar year. Also suspended and put on probation were Travis Geisler, who serves as team manager for both cars, and the individual car chiefs and team engineers for the two cars.
NASCAR also announced penalties for Martin Truex Jr. and Ron Hornaday Jr., but neither was as steep as those against the Penske cars.
Penske Racing vowed to appeal, a move that would put any suspensions on hold.
"Penske Racing will appeal utilizing the appropriate NASCAR process," the team said. "We have no further comment at this time."
NASCAR inspectors confiscated the original rear-end housing with suspension parts from Keselowski's No. 2 Ford and Logano's No. 22 before Saturday night's race, causing a pre-race scramble for both teams. Logano was late to the starting grid because of additional inspections and had to start at the back of the field. He recovered to finish fifth and Keselowski was ninth.
Keselowski was livid following the race.
"The things I've seen over the last seven days have me questioning everything that I believe in, and I'm not happy about it," Keselowski said. "I have one good thing to say, and that was my team and the effort they put in today, in fighting back with the absolute (expletive) that's been the last seven days in this garage area."
NASCAR said both Penske cars used parts that had not been approved before getting to Texas. This is the first year of the series' new cars that underwent nearly two years of testing before their debuts.
With the team manager and the engineers of both cars also being suspended, the penalties against the Penske teams went further than last season, when Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 car failed the opening day inspection at the Daytona 500. Five-time championship winning crew chief Chad Knaus and the car chief for that Hendrick Motorsports car were suspended for six races.
Knaus still had to pay a $100,000 fine, but the bulk of the penalties levied against him and the car chief were later overturned by NASCAR's chief appellate officer, the highest level of appeal. Johnson also got back 25 points that had been docked.
Logano said Wednesday on NASCAR Race Hub that the fines and penalties won't be a distraction for Penske Racing.
"We can definitely move ahead. We are ready for that and obviously we have talked a lot about it," said Logano, whose appearance on the Speed Channel show was previously scheduled. "Penske Racing has a lot of depth inside the company, and we can make adjustments to make sure we still run well.
"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," he said, also noting Keselowski's top-10 finish. "Proud of that effort in Texas, and especially after all of the adversity there. I think it says a lot about our company."
Keselowski, who has six top-10 finishes, got a penalty a week earlier at Martinsville for pitting outside his stall. He still disputes that.
"There's so much stuff going on. You guys have no idea ... what's going on," Keselowski said Saturday night. "I could tell you there is nobody, no team in this garage with the integrity of the 2 team. And the way we've been treated over the last seven days is absolutely shameful."
NASCAR didn't punish Keselowski for his post-race rant.
Keselowski spent Tuesday at the White House, where President Barack Obama honored him and his crew for winning the Sprint Cup championship.
Truex, who finished second at Texas behind Kyle Busch, was punished for having a front end that was too low. He and owner Michael Waltrip were each docked six points and crew chief Chad Johnston was fined $25,000 and placed on probation until June 5. The points deduction dropped Truex from 16th to 19th heading into this weekend's race at Kansas.
NASCAR fined Hornaday $25,000 and docked him 25 points for spinning Darrell Wallace Jr. under caution in Sunday's Truck Series race at Rockingham. Hornaday's team, NTS Motorsports, said it wouldn't appeal the penalties.
AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report.