By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor
Following the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix, penalties were expected to come down from NASCAR for post-race inspection issues and on Wednesday afternoon, the sanctioning body laid out the penalties that they had handed down to the teams involved.
Brad Keselowski had finished fifth at Phoenix, but after the race, his No. 2 team did not pass weights and measures, failing the post-race rear wheel steer on the Laser Inspection Station.
As a result, Keselowski’s finish will be encumbered and crew chief Paul Wolfe was fined $65,000 and suspended from the next three races (Auto Club, Martinsville, and Texas). The team was also penalized 35 driver and owner points.
In a team release, Team Penske announced that Brian Wilson would serve as interim crew chief for this weekend’s Auto Club 400, while they assess their plans going forward.
Keselowski happened to be a guest on FOX Sports 1’s NASCAR Race Hub show when the penalties were unveiled and also weighed in.
“First off, my crew chief, Paul Wolfe, is an elite crew chief and I feel really lucky to have him,” said Keselowski. “He’s one of those guys that wins races every year and he’s got great cars, great speed. If you look through NASCAR’s Loop Data, which is a real fancy term for a bunch of numbers, we’re leading in a lot of categories and one of them is speed. Speed in the car and you know, a large part of the credit for that goes to Paul Wolfe and his leadership for our team. To lose a guy like that, it definitely hurts. He’s a great asset to our team, but you know, this is one of those setbacks that I think every team faces and we’re just going to have to get through it. It looks like it’s going to be a handful of races and we’ll do the best that we can during that time.”
“The good thing about Brian Wilson is that he comes from the Xfinity side as a crew chief who just won with Joey Logano at Las Vegas, but even before that, he was on the No. 2 team as the lead engineer. So, a lot of knowledge and experience working together with him.”
“One of the biggest things on this topic is we ran all of the same parts on the car in Phoenix that we had ran at the other races, even the one we won at Atlanta. And all of those parts were good and they passed inspection, both pre and post-race, so there are a lot of questions for our team. We don’t understand exactly what happened and I think you saw that with the statement that Team Penske released. So, we’ve still got to figure out what happened and that’s probably the most concerning thing because we feel like we built a car that was legal and it passed pre-race inspection and you don’t want it to happen again. We don’t understand what happened, so I think right now that’s the most concerning thing is trying to figure it out. Because, honestly, we don’t know.”
Along with Keselowski’s penalty, Kevin Harvick and his team were also penalized after issues were found with the track bar mounts and supports in inspection at the NASCAR R&D Center.
Harvick will have his sixth-place finish from Phoenix encumbered and crew chief Rodney Childers will be fined $25,000 and suspended for one race. The team will also lose 10 driver and owner points as a result.
At this time, the team has not announced whether they will appeal the penalty or not.
While Keselowski and Harvick were included in the weekly penalty report, one name that was not in the report was Austin Dillon as he was not penalized for his actions during the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Phoenix.
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