Brad Keselowski and Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing are the first to be penalized under NASCAR’s new car penalty structure.
NASCAR announced Thursday that Keselowski had been penalized 100 points and 10 playoff points for illegal parts modifications. Many parts on the new Cup Series car are supplied through single vendors. Modifications to the spec parts are explicitly not allowed and, in typical NASCAR fashion, the sanctioning body didn’t announce what the penalty was exactly for.
NASCAR only said that Keselowski’s No. 6 team had violated sections 14.1 and 14.5 of the NASCAR rule book regarding the external surface of the body panels on the car. The rule book provides no other information available regarding the location or other specifics of the violation.
The 100-point penalty drops Keselowski from 16th to 35th in the standings in his first season for RFK Racing. He moved to the team in the offseason from Team Penske after he got a small ownership stake in Roush Fenway Racing. The penalty is a massive blow to Keselowski’s title hopes as he now needs to win a race to make the playoffs.
A driver can earn a maximum of 60 points in a race and Keselowski had earned 122 points through the first five races of the season. He now has 22 points and sits 31 points behind Cody Ware and in last among drivers who have competed in all five races this season.
Points leader Chase Elliott has 171 points through five races.
Keselowski’s crew chief Matt McCall was also suspended four races for the violation. Roush Fenway Racing has the option of appealing the penalty in an effort to get it reduced or rescinded.
NASCAR said before the season that it would take a strong stance against teams that were modifying vendor-supplied parts on cars. Many parts of the new Cup Series car come from a single supplier in an effort to cut costs for teams and create parity throughout the field. The new penalty system was also a great chance for NASCAR to be more transparent about its penalties, but this announcement was a clear reminder that NASCAR has no interest in informing its fans about the specifics of penalties.
NASCAR would do its fans a great service if it thoroughly explained alleged penalties committed by teams. Instead, it referenced a rulebook that isn’t publicly available to fans and didn't specifically outline the infractions committed in the story announcing the penalties on its own website.
Explaining to fans what the exact penalties are would help make the fanbase more informed and also show the things that teams do to make their cars faster. What teams do to stretch the limits of the NASCAR rule book to make cars faster is an appealing part of NASCAR. Leaving fans totally in the dark about that search for speed doesn’t benefit anyone.