Related video: Logano speaks up on recent events
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Joey Logano knows he'll have his regular crew chief and support personnel at the track this weekend when he competes at Richmond International Raceway. Whether he'll still be surrounded by the same faces after that will hinge on an appeal filed by his Penske Racing team in the wake of severe NASCAR penalties.
NASCAR on Tuesday announced that Penske's appeal of penalties levied against the teams of Logano and Brad Keselowski will be heard May 1 at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. The crew chiefs for each program, as well as their respective car chiefs, race engineers and the team competition director, were all suspended by NASCAR for six weeks after the rear ends of both cars failed pre-race inspection two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway.
The suspended personnel are able to work pending the appeal, although 25 points docked from Keselowski and Logano went into effect immediately. Three members from the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel will hear the Penske appeal. If the sanctions are upheld, Penske has the option of a final plea to Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook, who last year overturned suspensions and a 25-point deduction originally levied against Jimmie Johnson's team.
"We need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best," Logano said at the Carolinas Aviation Museum during an event promoting the upcoming Coca-Cola 600. "So we will prepare for the worst. We'll obviously bring some extra people to try to have some overlap within our team to prepare for if the appeal doesn't go the way we expect it to. So we need to always do that. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and we'll get through this. Penske Racing has a lot of depth in the company. They're very strong, and we will get through this."
The penalties stem from rear-end housing pieces that NASCAR confiscated before the Texas race, forcing both Penske teams to change out the parts and rush the vehicles back through inspection during pre-race festivities. NASCAR deemed that Logano didn't make it to the starting grid on time, and made him start at the rear. He still managed a top-five finish, continuing a strong early season that at one point saw him rise as high as ninth in the standings.
After incurring the 25-point penalty and finishing 39th at Kansas Speedway after being involved in a crash with Kyle Busch, Logano has slipped to 20th. But he believes he can still rally to challenge for his first berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
"If we don't have issues, we can get top-10s every week. I feel that confident," he said. "No matter what, we can always get a top-10 ?. And even if we don't start very well, we've been able to get our cars good. We proved that at Texas. We didn't start the race very well, and we had a lot of issues leading up to the start of the race, and we were able to tune our car in and ? finish fifth. A top-five after that is awesome. So yes, we know we can do it. We know we can win races. We've been in contention to win races this year. It's just become that much more important this year in the position we're at."
Logano said Penske was still working through a plan in case it has to compete without the suspended personnel. No. 22 crew chief Todd Gordon faces six weeks out, as does car chief Raymond Fox III and engineer Samuel Stanley. On Keselowski's team, crew chief Paul Wolfe, car chief Jerry Kelley and engineer Brian Wilson all face the same fate, as does Penske competition director Travis Geisler. Both crew chiefs were also fined $100,000. If the penalties are upheld and Penske does not appeal further, the suspended personnel would be out until the June 16 event at Michigan.
"I think the teams are really dealing with it well," Logano said. "We understand we want to win races and we're going to push as hard as we can to win races, just like every other team does. I think everyone's been very supportive, throughout all of Penske Racing, from the top to the bottom, and I'm glad to see that. Glad to see no one rolling over, and everyone working hard and still wanting those wins. That's what makes a strong organization in my eyes."
According to NASCAR, the Penske teams violated the sections of the 2013 Sprint Cup Series Rule Book which state that approved parts cannot be used after NASCAR deems them ineligible for competition, that stipulate what suspension parts and hardware must be made of, and outline the correct size of round mounting holes, and limitations on movement or realignment of suspension parts beyond normal rotation or travel. Some of those regulations are specific to the Generation-6 car, which debuted this season on NASCAR's premier series.
"It's teams pushing everything to the edge and trying to interpret the rules the right way," Logano said. "And sometimes that becomes a challenge, I believe. It happens. It's part of our sport. We want to win races as bad as anybody. And everyone's going to do that, everyone's going to try to find ? a competitive advantage within the rules."
Logano appeared Tuesday at an event promoting next month's races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which will once again have a military theme. The flyover prior to the May 26 Coca-Cola 600 will feature 10 vintage military aircraft, including two P-51 Mustangs owned by Jack Roush. Goodyear will continue its annual military appreciation campaign, using tires with "Support our Troops" stenciled on the sidewalls for all events during both Coca-Cola 600 and Sprint All-Star Race weekends.
The speedway has also launched a program in which sponsored buses will carry service members from Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and South Carolina's Fort Jackson and Shaw Air Force Base to the Coca-Cola 600. The track is providing 3,000 tickets for military distribution through the USO. Logano symbolically kicked off the program Tuesday by driving a motorcoach carrying some military personnel.
"It puts everything in perspective for sure," he said. "Yes, a tough day at the race track is hard, but it's nothing compared to what these guys are doing out there. It does put it in perspective. You get frustrated racing because it's your job and it's your passion, but what I'm doing compared to what all these military guys are doing -- I'm not really doing much at all, if you look at it that way."