The awaited appeal from RFK Racing on their L-2 penalty handed down on March 24 was heard on Thursday from the National Motorsports Appeals Panel. They came to a decision and ruled that penalties against RFK Racing’s No. 6 Ford team and driver-owner Brad Keselowski will stand.
The three members of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel who served in Thursday’s hearing were: Mr. Dixon Johnston, Mr. Bill Mullis and Mr. Dale Pinilis.
Per NASCAR, a three-member panel heard the appeal Thursday, confirming that RFK Racing violated Sections 14.1 and 14.5 of the NASCAR Rule Book. Those sections both relate to modification of a single-source supplied part on the Next Gen stock car that debuted in the Cup Series this year.
No explanation as given on what part that wise, but industry chatter suggests that it belonged to the rear end of the car.
As far as how they were caught, it stemmed from Keselowski’s Atlanta car. They failed pre race inspection and after the race, the car was then taken back to NASCAR’s Research & Development Center in the Charlotte area for further inspection.
NASCAR found what they had done was highly illegal and levied one of the largest penalties handed down in the sport’s history.
They were penalized 100 driver points, 100 owner points and crew chief Matt McCall being fined $100,000 and suspended from the next four NASCAR Cup Series points races. So far, he’s served 2 of the 4 with this week and next week coming to finalize it.
RFK then appealed which had a date of April 7 to be heard. That’s why this decision was made. RFK will now drop their side of the case and take their punishment.
Keselowski, sits 31st in points now and will need to likely win a race in order to get himself playoff eligible. Being this far back of 16th is a pretty large hole to climb out of, especially for an organization that has won just twice in the last 259 races (since 2015). RFK (formerly RFR) also has just 29 top five finishes, 89 top 10’s and 690 laps led since the start of the 2015 season too.
Now, you’re essentially asking Keselowski to take this car to victory lane.
However, engineer Josh Sell has served as interim crew chief, helping the No. 6 team register finishes of 14th (Circuit of The Americas) and 13th (Richmond) the last two weekends as they’re clearly improving.
Is it enough?
I feel like they have to play even more by the rules this season or it could get even uglier. NASCAR is going to be watching them like a hawk watches its prey. The problem by this is, the most successful teams in the sport are pushing the limits and finding gray areas to live in. RFK doesn’t have that luxury anymore. At least for a while.
That could hinder their race winning chances which as a result, could leave Keselowski on the outside looking in for the playoffs.
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.”
In saying that, Keselowski didn’t get the book thrown at them for being in violation. What I mean by that is, the $100k fine was the bare minimum for this level of penalty. So was the suspension for McCall and the playoff point deductions. The overall points deduction was in the middle.