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Penske loses Texas penalty appeal
1 May 2013
The three-person panel overseeing Penske Racing's appeal against sanctions imposed on it by NASCAR after the Sprint Cup race at Texas last month has unanimously found against the team and upheld the penalties.
"We take our inspection process very seriously," said NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp after the panel handed down its decision after a six hour session at NASCAR's Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carlina. "We believe we do a strong and credible job with it.
"The level playing field in the garage we believe is the best it's ever been," he continued. "As the sanctioning body, we have to uphold the rules and regulations in the rulebook. The inspection process we believe in very strongly."
Penske had been deemed to have used unapproved rear suspension parts on the cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Both drivers lost 25 points in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship and face losing their crew chiefs for six Cup races if the appeal fails.
The two crew chiefs also received a $100,000 fine each, and the car chiefs and chief engineers on the two cars will also be suspended for six weeks along with Penske's director of competition Travis Geisler. Such a sweeping clear-out of senior staff could leave Penske struggling to operate over race weekends over the next couple of months.
The three-person panel hearing the appeal was selected from the 49 members of the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel and consisted of Pocono Raceway president Brandon Igdalsky, former NASCAR senior vice president Paul Brooks and Bowman-Gray Stadium operator Dale Pinilis. Tharp said that the selection - which did not include any technical experts - had been based on availability.
Team owner Roger Penske attended the hearing along with Penske Racing president Tim Cindric, Brad Keselowski's crew chief Paul Wolfe, and his counterpart on Joey Logano's car Todd Gordon.
"Obviously a disappointing outcome with the panel," said Penske after the decision. "It was a good process. We have a good case. I can't make any further comments," he said, confirming that the team would now exercise its right of final appeal.
"I'm better off to wait to see that conclude," he added. "All I can say about the process is it's fair and equitable. We had an opportunity to explain our case in detail. We will move onto the next step."
The next step is a hearing before NASCAR's chief appellate officer John Middlebrook, a former General Motors executive who serves for a nominal $1 a year. His decision is final. Tharp said Penske's final appeal would be held next Tuesday, after earlier saying it would be scheduled as "quickly and expeditiously as possible," and that the team suspensions would be deferred until after that hearing had taken place.
Since the current appeals process was introduced, some 70 per cent of the 150 appeals that have been heard have been upheld in NASCAR' favour, including today's ruling. However, Middlebrook did overturn comparable penalties on the #48 team of Jimmie Johnson and crew chief last year on a final appeal for a rules infraction at the Daytona 500.
Joe Gibbs Racing's appeal for having an underweight connecting rod in Matt Kenseth's race-winning engine at Kansas will be heard next Wednesday by a different three-man panel. NASCAR has currently imposed a 50 points penalty for Matt Kenseth, a six-race suspension and $200,000 fine for crew chief Jason Ratcliff and a six-race suspension of Joe Gibb's owner license for the #20 car.
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