KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Brad Keselowski spent some time in the garage talking to crew chief Paul Wolfe, then walked over to his No. 2 Ford and hopped in for practice on a brisk, breezy day at Kansas Speedway.
Everything appeared to be normal in the world of Penske Racing.
Even if that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano arrived at this weekend’s race with their full crews while Penske Racing appeals heavy penalties levied by NASCAR for bringing unapproved parts to Texas.
Wolfe and Logano crew chief Todd Gordon were each fined $100,000 and suspended, along with five others in the Penske organization, for six championship points races after NASCAR inspectors found an unapproved rear-end housing on the Nos. 2 and 22 cars before last weekend’s race.
The crews are allowed at the track until the appeal is heard.
“I think it’s definitely a challenge for us, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” Keselowski said. “It’s an opportunity to show how strong a team Penske Racing can be. I think there’s a lot of passion inside this group and, you know, the strong will survive.”
Logano qualified 22nd for Sunday’s race. Keselowski will roll off 33rd.
The move by NASCAR inspectors to confiscate the questionable part just before last weekend’s race set off a mad scramble by both teams. Logano was late to the starting grid at Texas and had to start at the back of the field, but recovered to finish fifth. Keselowski ended up ninth.
The penalties dished out to Penske Racing hurt even more.
“I’m thankful there is a process for appeals,” Keselowski said, “because obviously we’re in an agree-to-disagree stage between Penske Racing and NASCAR, and thankfully, there’s a third panel or group to settle those disagreements.”
The date for the appeal has not been set.
Last season, Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 car failed the opening day inspection at the Dayton 500. Five-time winning crew chief Chad Knaus and the car chiefs for that Hendrick car were suspended for six races, but the bulk of the penalties were later overturned by NASCAR’s chief appellate officer, the highest level of appeal.
Those penalties, which included a $100,000 fine for Knaus, came as a result of issues NASCAR found with the posts that connect the roof to the top of the rear quarter panel and deck lid.
“I’ve lived through it and good teams survive, good teams and drivers will always survive, but it’ll put a lot of stress in their world,” Johnson said. “We’ll see how they respond to it, but once they get some normalcy back to their life, they’ll be at the front of the pack.”
Johnson denied having anything to do with last weekend’s Penske incident.
“We try to be as smart as we can, conform to the rules and put the best car we can on the track,” he said. “In no way, shape or form did anyone in the 48 car walk into that truck.”
The penalties were the talk of the garage Friday.
Carl Edwards, who qualified second behind pole-winner Matt Kenseth, said he hadn’t been paying much attention to the situation, while Juan Pablo Montoya wasn’t offering much sympathy.
“You always want to push the rules. That’s what you do,” Montoya said. “But if you knowingly go over the rules, it is what it is. I don’t think anybody was surprised.”
Clint Bowyer took an even more black-and-white approach.
“Who cares how you get caught? If you’re cheating, it’s wrong, and you’re going to get caught,” Bowyer said. “Whether you’re in a sporting event or life, if you’re cheating, you’re going to get caught. We’re seeing a lot of that this week.”
Keselowski, who spent Tuesday celebrating his championship at the White House, got a penalty a week earlier at Martinsville for pitting outside his stall. He still disputes that.
“It’s pretty obvious that defining cheating in this sport is something that’s been very poorly done,” he said, “and I think you all are probably the ones that need to step back and try to figure out how to define that better because, clearly, this garage is having a hard time doing that.”
Keselowski said during a post-race rant at Texas that the way the No. 2 team has been “treated over the last seven days is absolutely shameful,” and seemed to indicate that there were things going on behind the scenes with NASCAR that haven’t been reported.
He refused to get into those issues on Friday.
“I don’t think I’ve been surprised by much of anything the last two or three days, but I think it’s really important to let the appeals process work out,” he said. “I’ll save those comments for when it works out. I don’t want to jeopardize our chance to have a clear appeal.”