KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Penske Racing arrived at Kansas Speedway this weekend with its teams intact as it appeals heavy penalties levied by NASCAR for bringing unapproved parts to Texas.
Six-race suspensions for seven crew members of defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were handed down Wednesday, along with $200,000 in fines and point penalties that dropped Keselowski from second to fourth and Logano from ninth to 14th in the Sprint Cup standings.
"I think it's definitely a challenge for us, which isn't necessarily a bad thing," Keselowski said after qualifying Friday. "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."
The penalties given to Penske Racing are some of the stiffest in Sprint Cup history, and stem from an unapproved rear-end housing found on the No. 2 and No. 22 cars during pre-race inspections.
The move by NASCAR inspectors to confiscate the 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.
"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.
Keselowski crew chief Paul Wolfe and Logano crew chief Todd Gordon were each fined $100,000, suspended for six championship races and placed on probation for the rest of the calendar year. Also suspended and put on probation were Travis Geisler, the team manager for both cars, and their individual car chiefs and team engineers.
Richard Petty said Friday someone in the garage area must have told NASCAR officials about the questionable parts on the Penske cars, and attention drifted to Hendrick Motorsports - a team known for pushing the envelope when it comes to research and development.
Just 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 levied against Penske Racing were the talk of the garage Friday, and one thing quickly became clear: They aren't getting much sympathy from other drivers.
"You always want to push the rules. That's what you do," Juan Pablo 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," he 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.
"I think it's pretty obvious that defining cheating in this sport is something that's been very poorly done," Keselowski 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 the way the No. 2 team has been "treated over the last seven days is absolutely shameful," and appeared to indicate there were things going on behind the scenes with NASCAR that haven't been reported. He refused to get into those issues 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," Keselowski said. "I'll save those comments for when it works out. I don't want to jeopardize our chance to have a clear appeal."