Penske, Gibbs shuffle teams to backfill crew
May 09, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Kevin Buskirk and Steve Reis have been named to fill the crew chief roles for Penske Racing’s two Cup teams beginning with this week’s Bojangles' Southern 500.
For Joe Gibbs Racing, former Cup crew chief Wally Brown will be calling the shots for the No. 20 team and driver Matt Kenseth.
Buskirk and Reis replace Paul Wolfe and Todd Gordon, who are serving respective two-race suspensions for infractions found on the cars of teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano at Texas Motor Speedway April 13.
Buskirk, paired with Keselowski and the organization’s No. 2 entry, is a former crew chief with 63 Cup races under his belt. He currently oversees Penske Racing’s testing program.
Reis, a team engineer, will head up Logano’s No. 22 Ford team. Greg Erwin, crew chief for Nationwide Series driver Sam Hornish Jr. and a former Cup crew chief, will assist Reis.
Wolfe and Gordon were initially suspended for six points races, as well as the May 18 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, a non-points event, for rear-end housing issues discovered prior to the Texas event.
Penske officials appealed the penalties, which included individual $100,000 fines for Wolfe and Gordon, as well as 25-point penalties for Keselowski and Logano.
The National Stock Car Racing Commission ruled in favor of NASCAR upon hearing the initial appeal May 1.
Penske officials appealed that decision to Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook, and his ruling trimmed the suspensions of the affected parties from six points races to two. As a result, Wolfe and Gordon will be allowed to return to the track in time for the June 2 race at Dover.
Five other Penske team members, including competition director Travis Geisler, also saw their suspensions reduced by four points events.
Team manager Mike Nelson will serve in Geisler’s role at the track for the next three weekends.
The ruling did not alter the points penalties for Keselowski and Logano. Middlebrook’s decision also left intact the $100,000 fines for the individual crew chiefs.
Keselowski enters this week’s race sixth in points, while Logano is 18th.
Brown, crew chief for Carl Edwards at Roush Fenway Racing in 2005, will have a somewhat shorter tenure, taking over for Jason Ratcliff for this weekend’s race at Darlington.
Ratcliff was suspended for six events when Kenseth’s winning engine from Kansas on April 21 failed post-race inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center.
An appeals panel reduced his suspension to a single week during a May 7 hearing.
One of eight connecting rods in the No. 20 measured below the 525-gram minimum, and while JGR obtains its engines from Toyota Racing Development (TRD), the team is ultimately held responsible for any technical issues that might arise.
The panel also chose to reduce the points penalty for Kenseth and team owner Joe Gibbs from 50 to 12. The decision moved Kenseth from 11th in points to fourth.
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