NASCAR

Penske penalties signal NASCAR stance

Image: NASCAR driver Joey Logano (© Douglas Jones/USA TODAY Sports)
Joey Logano (pictured) and teammate Brad Keselowski were docked 25 points each.
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Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond is a former NASCAR crew chief who led Darrell Waltrip to two of his three Sprint Cup championships. The duo also teamed up to win the 1989 Daytona 500. Prior to that, Hammond was the jackman for Cale Yarborough for all three of his Cup championships. He has 43 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief. Follow him on Twitter.

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As everyone knows by now, NASCAR has lowered the boom on both Penske Racing teams, sending a clear message to everyone in the garage area that the procedures enacted by NASCAR are not to be trifled with. This is a classic example of what happens if you want to do something to your race car or put something on it without NASCAR’s blessing.

From what I have read and in my understanding in reading the penalty, the part that got them busted was not submitted for approval. That’s one thing they did wrong. The rear-end housing was confiscated by NASCAR when both cars failed a pre-race inspection.

If you remember back when the Car of Tomorrow came out, two Hendrick cars were penalized at Sonoma for working in an area that the teams claimed was a gray area. NASCAR quickly made it clear to them then and to the Penske camps now, there is no more gray area in racing. It is only black and white.

So I think that’s the reason for the severity of the penalty on the No. 2 team of Brad Keselowski and No. 22 team of Joey Logano. NASCAR believes both teams did something they clearly knew they shouldn’t be doing. I will say I am really surprised they are appealing this. Obviously, they know something that I don’t that makes them believe they have a chance to have these penalties overturned.

Regardless of how that all turns out, there is no denying that NASCAR is serious about the procedures it has in place and it is not to be messed with. Just take a look at the depth NASCAR went with its suspensions. On Keselowski’s team, he lost his crew chief, car chief, team engineer plus Penske’s competition director for both teams, all for six points races.

Logano lost his crew chief, car chief and team engineer also for six races. There were monetary penalties, plus, more importantly, both drivers lost 25 championship points. That alone is a huge hit, especially to Keselowski, who is trying to defend his championship.

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I am really not that surprised by the depth of the penalties, as there has been a consistent ramping up of the severity that NASCAR hands down to help drive the point home that if you cross the line and get caught, be prepared to pay the consequences.

It is obvious that both cars were in compliance with what the team orders were, so I think that’s part of the reason that NASCAR even suspended Penske Racing’s competition director Travis Geisler. They are obviously holding him equally at fault for what happened, just like they are doing the crew chief, car chief and engineers.

As to Penske Racing, I’m sure it was something they felt, in their minds, was fine. Not trying to defend them, but I’m just saying there’s always two sides to every story and we’re only hearing the NASCAR side of it. With that being said, we’ve seen every other major car builder, team owner, go through this — from Hendrick to Roush Fenway to Childress Racing to Michael Waltrip Racing. They’ve all experienced it at one time or another.

It’s one of those situations, I think it kind of points in the direction of how important it is, for somebody to pick up such a small amount, how important it is because of how close the cars are running.

Again, not to exonerate but just to try to explain this is not the end of the world. It does not mean there’s not integrity at Penske Racing or any of our teams, but this is something I think all these organizations feel like is necessary, from time to time, to challenge the authority of NASCAR and the letter of the law, you might say.

It will be interesting to see, from this point on, as it goes through the appeal procedure whether the board and their chosen representatives at that particular time, since we don’t know who the board will be, how they feel about whatever they state in front of them.

This thing is not over with yet. Again, this is just what they’ve been charged with. The final verdict, I don’t think, is totally done. The oh-by-the-way with that is that if they don’t do a very good job of convincing them that they should be in the right, they may in turn see this penalty increase so that people do understand that if you step outside of the line, it could be worse.

They could tack on a few more races to the crew chiefs; they could choose to add even a little bit to the monetary side.

It will be interesting the next couple of weeks to see how this plays out.

Tagged: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano

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