Penske penalties upheld; team will appeal to appellate officer
Penske Racing lost its appeal Wednesday of NASCAR penalties handed down following last month’s Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, where the team cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were deemed to have improper rear suspension modifications.
The team has one last court of resort, a final appeal to National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook. Team owner Roger Penske said he will make the final appeal, which is now scheduled for Tuesday.
Seven team members who were suspended as part of the original ruling will be allowed to work at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend.
Since 1999, 15 penalty cases have gone before NASCAR’s chief appellate officer. Of those 15 cases, nine were upheld, two reduced and one overturned.
Penske expressed disappointment about the decision after it was handed down.
“All I can say about the process is that I think it’s fair and equitable,” said Penske, who won his first NASCAR Sprint Championship last year with Keselowski. “We had the opportunity to explain our case, the situation in detail. Obviously, the information that we were able to demonstrate to the panel, they determined that they would uphold … the violation. We will obviously move on to the next step.”
“We take our inspection process very seriously, we believe we do a strong and credible job with it and the level playing field in the garage is the best it's ever been,” said Kerry Tharp, NASCAR’s senior director of competition communications. “As the sanctioning body, we've got to uphold the rules and regulations. That's part of our job. The inspection process we believe in very, very strongly.”
NASCAR penalized the Penske squad after the April 13 race at Texas Motor Speedway and the three-member panel unanimously upheld the sanctioning body's ruling.
The appeal panel that heard Wednesday's case included former NASCAR television executive Paul Brooks, Bowman-Gray Stadium operator Dale Pinilis and Pocono Raceway chairman and CEO Brandon Igdalsky.
The sanctions handed down in the original penalty were severe. The crew chief, car chief and engineer for both Brad Keselowski’s and Joey Logano’s Penske Fords were suspended for six races each, as was the team manager, Travis Geisler, who oversees both cars.
In addition, each team was docked 25 owner and driver points, and crew chiefs Paul Wolfe (Keselowski) and Todd Gordon (Logano) were fined $100,000 each.
If the suspension lengths are upheld, the team members would be out until the road course race at Sonoma, Calif., in late June.
Representing Penske Racing today were team owner Roger Penske, vice chairman Walt Czarnecki, president Tim Cindric, Wolfe, Gordon and team manager Travis Geisler.
NASCAR officials had said the rear ends of the two Penske cars contained unapproved parts; Penske countered that all the parts in question had been approved.
The full NASCAR statement of the appeals panel on the Penske penalties read:
On May 1, 2013, the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel heard and considered the appeal of the No. 2 and No. 22 Penske Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams.
The penalties concern Sections 12-1: Actions detrimental to stock car racing; 12-4J: Any determination by NASCAR Officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to the NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the NASCAR rule book, or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event; and 20-12: All suspension systems and components must be approved by NASCAR. Prior to being used in competition, all suspension systems and components must be submitted in a completed form/assembly to the office of the NASCAR competition administrator for consideration of approval and approved by NASCAR. Each such part may thereafter be used until NASCAR determines that such part is no longer eligible. All suspension fasteners and mounting hardware must be made of solid magnetic steel. All front end and rear end suspension mounts with mounting hardware assembled must have single round mounting holes that are the correct size for the fastener being used. All front end and rear end suspension mounts and mounting hardware must not allow movement or realignment of any suspension component beyond component normal rotation or suspension travel.
The penalties stemmed from a pre-race inspection at Texas Motor Speedway April 13.
The original penalties assessed to the No. 2 team were:
• Crew chief (Paul Wolfe): $100,000 fine; suspended from NASCAR until the completion of the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship points events; placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31;
• Car chief Jerry Kelley, team engineer Brian Wilson and team manager Travis Geisler (serves as team manager for both the No. 2 and No. 22 cars): Suspended from NASCAR until the completion of the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship points events; placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31;
• Car owner Roger Penske: Loss of 25 championship owner points;
• Driver Brad Keselowski: Loss of 25 championship driver points.
The original penalties assessed to the No. 22 team were:
• Crew chief (Todd Gordon): $100,000 fine; suspended from NASCAR until the completion of the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship points events; placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31;
• Car chief Raymond Fox and team engineer Samuel Stanley: Suspended from NASCAR until the completion of the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship points events; placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31;
• Car owner Walt Czarnecki: Loss of 25 championship owner points;
• Driver Joey Logano: Loss of 25 championship driver points.
The Appellants appealed all penalties listed above. The Appellants also requested and were granted a deferral of the suspensions until such time as the hearing could be convened.
Upon hearing the testimony and carefully reviewing the facts, it was a unanimous decision by the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel to uphold the original penalties assessed by NASCAR.
The Appellants have the right under Section 15 of the rule book to appeal this decision to the National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer.