Penske drivers lose initial appeals

CONCORD, N.C. -- Penske Racing on Wednesday lost its initial appeal of penalties against the Sprint Cup teams of reigning champion Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

The National Stock Car Racing panel unanimously upheld fines, point penalties and suspensions issued for unapproved rear housing parts discovered during inspection of both cars prior to the April 13 Texas race.

Team owner Roger Penske will utilize the final step in the appeal process, in which NASCAR chief appellate officer John Middlebrook will hear from both sides.

The hearing will take place next Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET, meaning all of the suspended crew members will be at Talladega this weekend.

"Obviously, we're disappointed with the outcome,'' Penske said. "We met with the panel for over four or five hours. It was a good process. I feel we have a good case, and as we are allowed to under the NASCAR rules we will appeal to the next level.

"I can't make any [further] comment. It's clear we have a process. That's why I'm better off to wait and see that conclude, and at that point I can make any other personal comments.''

Wednesday's appeal was heard at NASCAR's Research and Development Center by Brandon Igdalsky (Pocono Raceway president), Paul Brooks (former senior vice president in NASCAR) and Dale Pinilis (Bowman-Gray Stadium promoter) chosen from a list of 48 that includes former car owners, crew chiefs and drivers, and current track promoters and top industry officials.

They upheld NASCAR's decision to dock Keselowski and Logano 25 points each in the driver and owner standings, and $100,000 fines against crew chiefs Paul Wolfe and Todd Gordon.

They also upheld six-week suspensions from point races -- as well as the May 18 All-Star race -- for Wolf, Gordon, car chiefs Jerry Kelley and Raymond Fox, engineers Brian Wilson and Samuel Stanley and competition director Travis Geisler. All worked with the teams the past two races at Kansas and Richmond, pending the appeal.

Keselowski and Logano will enter Sunday's race sixth and 17th in the standings, respectively, as the points already have been deducted.

Penske argued that the rear housing parts were approved and that the organization simply was working in a gray area that other teams were. NASCAR argued that the parts were modified to move in a way that created a competitive advantage, thus making them unapproved.

Penske now will argue his case to Middlebrook. Last year, Middlebrook overturned a six-race suspension for Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus and returned the 25 points taken from five-time champion Jimmie Johnson for what NASCAR deemed an illegal C-post prior to the Daytona 500. He did not rescind the $100,000 fine against Knaus.

"All I can say about the process is it's fair and equitable,'' Penske said. "We had the opportunity to explain our case and situations in detail.''

That the panel upheld NASCAR's decision should not have come as a shock. It has upheld 103 of 150 appeals, exactly 70.6 percent, in the past.

Keselowski wrote on Twitter during the appeal: "Inner peace is easily achievable once you realize that sometimes all you can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst. #Appeal.''

NASCAR was represented by Cup Series director John Darby. Robin Pemberton, the sport's vice president of competition, was out of state serving jury duty.

NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said the governing body takes policing the garage and the inspection process very seriously. He said the final appeal was scheduled at the earliest possible date because with "these types of situations you want to go ahead and address them so everybody can move forward.''

Next up for the National Stock Car Racing panel is a May 8 appeal by Joe Gibbs Racing for penalties against Matt Kenseth's team, stemming from a failed engine inspection following a win at Kansas.

NASCAR discovered one of eight connecting rods in the engine was 2.7 grams too light during a secondary inspection at the R&D Center in Concord after the April 21 race.

That resulted in a 50-point penalty for Kenseth and team owner Joe Gibbs and a $200,000 fine and six-week suspension for crew chief Jason Ratcliff. Kenseth also lost bonus points that would have been used for seeding in the Chase and credit for the win if he needs it as a wild card entry.

Also, Joe Gibbs had his owner's license suspended for six races, meaning he won't earn car owner points during that time.

Kenseth called the penalties for what engine supplier Toyota Racing Development called a mistake by a vendor "grossly unfair'' and "borderline shameful.''