NASCAR officials issued a L2-level penalty to the No. 6 Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing team on Thursday morning, penalizing the team 100 driver points and 100 owner points to significantly impact its path to the postseason.
The penalty came under Sections 14.1 and 14.5 in the NASCAR Rule Book, both of which pertain to the modification of a single source supplied part.
In addition to the points penalties, crew chief Matt McCall was fined $100,000 and suspended from the next four NASCAR Cup Series points races. Should the No. 6 team of Brad Keselowski qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, it will be penalized with the loss of 10 NASCAR Playoff points.
Prior to Sunday’s race at Atlanta, Keselowski’s No. 6 car was sent to the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments. The violations announced Thursday morning were discovered during teardown inspection at the NASCAR R&D Center following the race weekend.
The 100-point penalty will take Keselowski from 16th in the points standings with 122 points to 35th, behind every full-time driver in the field.
NASCAR officials released a more stringent penalty structure for the 2022 Cup Series season in January, introducing a list of deterrence options on a three-tiered system — from L1 to L3.
Penalty options for a L2 infraction include:
• Points deductions: 75-120 points
• Playoff points deductions: 10-25 points
• Suspension of one or two crewmembers for 4-6 races
• Fines: $100,000-$250,000
“To make sure that all of those things stay above board, there’s going to have to be a culture shift from the way that the teams and NASCAR, for that matter, have done business,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller said in January when announcing the new penalty structure. “So this deterrence model has more meat in it, more meaningful penalties, but I think we all thought that it was time for this with the introduction of the new car.”
I don’t mind this penalty at all. Harsh? Sure. Warranted? Absolutely. NASCAR has said all along, modify a stock part, get the book thrown your way and that’s exactly what they did.
I get you always push the limits on a race team. Crew chiefs always work in the gray areas. You have to. If you’re not pushing the limits, you’re not really trying. You’d be off compared to everyone else. But, to modify a part?
You just can’t do that.
What I hope I don’t hear is that the part didn’t have any merit on performance. We heard that far too many times when a team penalized for cheating in the past said that it didn’t affect the car at all. Well, if it didn’t affect it, why’d you do it in the first place.
I also feel like Keselowski is going to be facing an uphill battle for a playoff spot now too. He essentially has to win. Even by winning, he’s going to enter the playoffs in the hole with a penalty of 10 playoff points. That’s basically 2 wins.
What I mean by that is, if he wins a race, he gets five playoff points. So, say he wins a race and gets into the top 30 in points. He’s playoff eligible. But, he’s -5 in playoff points still. He’d have to win 2 races and/or 1 win and 5 stage wins to get to even playoff points.
He has to just go out and win a bunch of races in the regular season and playoffs in order to make it far. That’s going to be hard in the sense that RFK Racing hasn’t won a race since 2017.