AUSTIN, Texas – RFK Racing co-owner and driver Brad Keselowski made his first remarks Saturday since NASCAR officials handed down severe penalties to his No. 6 Ford team two days earlier. The punishment for a modified part of the car’s Next Gen body was harsh – 100 points, 10 playoff points, a $100,000 fine and four-race crew chief suspension – but the 38-year-old driver said he’s looking ahead after its delivery.
“I guess I don’t think that way. I don’t think in terms of surprised or not surprised,” Keselowski told NASCAR.com on his way out of the Cup Series garage at Circuit of The Americas. “Just try to move forward here.”
The strict, L2-level penalties remained the buzz of the garage Saturday, on the eve of Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix (3:30 p.m. ET, PRN, SiriusXM) at the 3.41-mile road course. The infraction was found after a thorough inspection at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C., and it marks the first L2 penalty for unapproved modifications to Next Gen-specific parts since the car’s competition debut this year. The team said Friday that it intends to appeal.
NASCAR announced Jan. 24 that a tougher deterrence system would be in place for the 2022 season. The penalties to RFK did not reach the steeper L3 level that could include a repeal of the team’s postseason eligibility, but fellow drivers said the message remained clear.
“I’m pretty sure it scares the hell out everyone, which is probably some of the attention,” said Joey Logano, Keselowski’s former longtime teammate at Team Penske. “NASCAR just said they’re gonna put the foot down. That’s like I was saying earlier, we don’t know what it was and what happened, but we do know the penalty was huge. So, I don’t know, but we know you probably shouldn’t screw around.”
The penalty knocked Keselowski’s No. 6 operation from 16th to 35th in the Cup Series standings, placing it last among full-time teams. Chris Buescher, Keselowski’s teammate in the No. 17 Ford, is now the highest-ranked RFK Racing driver – in 19th place and looking for his first top-five result of the year.
Buescher was not specific when asked about the current mood at the RFK shop, but said he didn’t feel any additional motivation or burden to carry the team’s baton in light of the penalties.
“We put pressure on ourselves every week, putting in our full effort every week. Nothing really changes,” said Buescher, who qualified 22nd to Keselowski’s 26th on Saturday. “We talked about that a lot, we’re here to put in everything we can to try to win every week. … The reality is wins get you in the playoffs and as you go and can be in contention to win consistently, the rest will come with it.”
The road ahead for the No. 6 team hinges on the notice of appeal that it announced Friday. The matter will be heard and considered by a three-member group from the National Motorsports Appeals Panel.
The No. 6 team could have deferred the four-race suspension issued to crew chief Matt McCall pending the appeal, but Josh Sell is listed in that role on the updated team roster portal for Sunday’s event.
“I’m not sure I have an answer for that other than we had committed to Josh Sell being the crew chief before the appeal was founded,” Keselowski said, “so we’re going to stick with that plan.”
In terms of climbing out of the deficit, a points-paying regular-season victory would still qualify Keselowski for a Cup Series Playoff berth – provided he meets all other criteria for eligibility. That stipulation includes reaching and staying among the top 30 in Cup Series points, a focus that starts Sunday at COTA and beyond.
“I mean, every day,” Keselowski said. “Yep, every day.”