Appeals panel upholds penalties to Brad Keselowski’s Penske team

1 Comment

Team Penske lost its appeal Wednesday morning of the penalties to Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford team after its fifth-place finish at Phoenix Raceway.

After hearing the team’s case at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, the appeals panel unanimously upheld the loss of 35 points and a $65,000 fine and three-race suspension for crew chief Paul Wolfe.

Penske had argued that NASCAR had erred on grounds of consistency and fairness.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Team Penske announced it would take its case to National Motorsports Final Appeal Officer Bryan Moss.

Wolfe, who sat out the Auto Club Speedway race, would miss the next two races at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway if Wednesday’s decision is upheld by Moss.

The appeal was heard by veteran Camping World Truck Series driver Rick Crawford, former TV executive Hunter Nickell and Bowman-Gray Stadium operator Dale Pinilis.

Here is the full statement from the panel:

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel today heard and considered an appeal of an L1 level penalty issued on March 22 to Paul Wolfe (crew chief), Team Penske (owner) and Brad Keselowski (driver), relative to the No. 2 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team at Phoenix International Raceway.

The penalty concerns the following sections in the 2017 NASCAR Rule Book: Sections 20.17.3.1.2 Post-Race General Inspection Measurements.

The original penalty assessed: Wolfe was fined $65,000 and suspended for three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points events; Team Penske was assessed with the loss of 35 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series owner points; Keselowski was assessed with the loss of 35 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver points; and the race finish was encumbered.

Upon hearing the testimony, the decisions of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel are:

  1. The Appellants violated the Rules set forth in the Penalty Notice.
  2. The Panel affirms and upholds the original Penalties assessed by NASCAR.

The panel consisted of the following three individuals:

– Mr. Rick Crawford

– Mr. Hunter Nickell

– Mr. Dale Pinilis

The Appellants have the right to appeal the decision of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer in accordance with Section 15 of the NASCAR Rule Book.

Grant Enfinger wins Truck pole at Gateway

Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With a speed of 138.867 mph, Grant Enfinger scored his second career Camping World Truck Series pole and will lead the field to green tonight for the Eaton 200. His first pole came on the restrictor plate Daytona International Speedway in February 2016.

Noah Gragson set a track record in round two of qualification with a speed of 139.035 mph. He slipped to third in the running order during round three.

Enfinger beat Christian Eckes (138.594 mph) by .064 seconds. Eckes is making only his second start in the Truck series. Last week he started ninth and finished eighth at Iowa Speedway.

Gragson (138.402), Justin Haley (138.325) and Ben Rhodes (138.211) rounded out the top five.

Johnny Sauter (137.358) failed to advance to the final round of qualification and will start 13th.

Camden Murphy and BJ McLeod failed to qualify.

Click here for the complete lineup.

Starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kyle Larson won his second consecutive pole at Sonoma and will lead the field to the green flag for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Martin Truex Jr. will line up alongside Larson on the front row.

Chase Elliott qualified third, the best of three Hendrick Motorsports drivers who advanced to the top 12. Jamie McMurray qualified fourth to place both Chip Ganassi Racing on the first two rows.

AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top five.

Click here for full qualification results.

 

Kyle Larson wins pole for Sonoma Cup race

Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kyle Larson posted a lap of 94.597 mph to win the pole for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350. It was his second consecutive pole at Sonoma and the sixth of his career.

Larson beat Martin Truex Jr. (94.484 mph) by .090 seconds.

Chase Elliott (94.461), Jamie McMurray (94.227) and AJ Allmendinger (93.925) rounded out the top five. He was fastest in round one of qualification with a speed of 94.477 mph.

Hendrick Motorsports placed three of their drivers in the final round. Jimmie Johnson (93.824) qualified seventh. William Byron (93.756) qualified eighth. Alex Bowman (93.267) qualified 17th.

In his first race back since Matt Kenseth took over the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Trevor Bayne barely missed advancing to the final round. With a speed of 93.455 mph, he qualified 13th.

Clint Bowyer (93.252) was unable to back up his time from Friday’s practice and will roll off the grid 19th.

Click here for full qualification results.

For Clint Bowyer, Sonoma Raceway is a lot like Martinsville

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Clint Bowyer didn’t grow up road racing; he cut his teeth on dirt tracks in the Midwest. And yet, he had an immediate affinity for Sonoma Raceway. In his second start there, while driving for Richard Childress in 2007, he finished fourth.

In fact, Bowyer enters the Toyota/SaveMart 350 with seven top-five finishes in 12 starts that includes a runner-up finish in last year’s Sonoma race. If not for a couple of misfortunes (crash damage in 2010 and an electrical problem in 2016), he might well have swept the top 10 since scoring that first top five as a sophomore.

Perhaps the reason for that immediate success is that he considers Sonoma to be a twisted version of Martinsville Speedway – a track on which he won this March to snap a 190-race winless streak.

“I think you embrace this track and road racing in general just like you do Martinsville,” Bowyer said on Friday before heading out to put his No. 14 Ford at the top of the first practice speed chart. “Nobody shows up at Martinsville and goes to the top of the board and is fast and has success and navigates traffic to win that race right off the bat. It just doesn’t happen and it doesn’t happen here either.”

His Sonoma success has not translated to road courses in general, however.

Yes, Bowyer swept the top five on NASCAR’s two road courses last year, but the fifth-place finish he scored at Watkins Glen International was only the second of his career on a track that many drivers consider to be less technical than Sonoma. In 12 starts there, he has earned only five top 10s.

“Watkins Glen is so fast. It is just dive-bombs and you are really carrying a lot of speed at a place like Watkins Glen.

“Here, it is like that short track. It is like being at Martinsville. Did you see my car at the end of the race last year? It was destroyed. I drove up through and passed the field twice because of mistakes that we made and got spun out once. It was a wild race to be able to finish second. You can’t do that at Watkins Glen. That car wouldn’t have ran in the top 10 at Watkins Glen.”

Nine different drivers have won at Sonoma in the last nine races. Given the dominance of Harvick (who won last year) and Kyle Busch (the 2015 winner), many think they are the most likely to end that streak. But Bowyer also has an opportunity to end the streak of unique winners. He won the 2012 edition of this race by holding off Tony Stewart – the driver with the second-most road course wins in NASCAR history.

“You have to be able to have fun on this race track,” Bowyer said. “It is a challenge. Each and every corner is different. There is no perfect setup or perfect line. It is literally one of the only tracks you go to where you are out there racing and have a smile on your face. You might even get a chuckle.”