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April 8, 2022

Brad Keselowski closes book on RFK Racing penalty and appeal, focuses forward

2022 April8 Brad Keselowski Main Image
Meagan Thompson
NASCAR Digital Media

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Owner-driver Brad Keselowski opened up Friday about the nature of the penalties against RFK Racing, his path through the appeals process this week and the path moving forward for his No. 6 Ford team.

Keselowski held court after Friday’s NASCAR Cup Series practice and qualifying at Martinsville Speedway, where he earned the ninth starting spot for Saturday’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM). He’s won here twice before, and it’s where he’ll continue to try to claw out of a sizable points deficit from 31st in Cup Series standings.

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Keselowski revealed that the penalty stemmed from a tail panel on his RFK Racing No. 6 Ford that had been repaired. He said that his team had run the body panel in three races, but that NASCAR competition officials determined that a key feature of the panel “was not repaired adequately enough.” Keselowski also explained that his team did not have a new tail panel that would work as a suitable replacement.

RFK Racing filed an appeal March 25, the day NASCAR officials announced the L2-grade penalties against the team.

2022 April8 Brad Keselowski 2 Main Image
Meagan Thompson | NASCAR Digital Media

“Well, our intent to appeal the penalty was to show everybody that we didn’t want to run that tail panel, and if we had a new one, we would have ran it to begin with,” Keselowski said. “So, you know, it’s a difficult position. Ultimately it’s NASCAR’s position that the parts and pieces have to be right. I think it was …. we made our repairs in good faith, but probably didn’t do a great job. Do I think there was a competitive advantage? Probably not, but we put NASCAR in a tough position of having to make a judgment call, and that’s not fair to them.

“So it’s one of those situations where I don’t think anybody’s really wrong. I mean, nobody’s really right. And it’s probably one of those situations that if we could repeat, we would have begged, borrowed and stolen a new tail and put it on the car. And that’s not the world we’re living in. Glad that’s being fixed, but this is the world we’re in now and we’ll go make the most of it.”

The L2-level penalties were issued March 24 after RFK’s No. 6 Ford was found in violation of Sections 14.1 and 14.5 of the NASCAR Rule Book – both headings that relate to the modification of a single-source supplied part for the Next Gen stock car. The punishment meant a loss of 100 points in the driver and owner standings, a 10-point deduction in playoff points, a four-race suspension for crew chief Matt McCall and a $100,000 fine.

RFK Racing’s appeal was heard Thursday, the day before NASCAR Cup Series teams loaded in at the .526-mile track. A three-member group from the National Motorsports Appeals Panel upheld the original penalties.

RFK Racing officials indicated that the organization would not file a final appeal, a decision Keselowski said he supported. The 38-year-old driver also said Friday that he sat in on the appeal, which was his first experience with the process.

“Probably the biggest surprise was just how professionally it was ran,” Keselowski said. “You know, I didn’t know what to expect, and not that I had low expectations but I try not to set high expectations. And it was done a lot better than probably some of the rumors I heard in the garage, and I’ll give NASCAR credit for that.”

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NASCAR officials had introduced a stricter deterrence system in the offseason, with the toughest penalties set for any manipulation or counterfeiting of parts specific to the Next Gen car that debuted in Cup Series competition this year. Keselowski said he understood the new penalty structure and the reasons why it was in place.

“I feel like NASCAR is in a difficult position. We have a brand-new car, which comes with a brand-new deterrence model. I think if you look historically, no, it would not have been justified that level of penalty, but that doesn’t matter,” Keselowski said. “We’re in a new model and a new world and NASCAR is doing the things that teams like us requested they do and heavily enforcing the rules. So you know, I think the ultimate test will be not us getting a penalty, it’s if somebody else gets a penalty of similar nature for doing similar things.”

Keselowski, in his first season as a part-owner of the former Roush Fenway Racing operation, sits 31st in the Cup Series standings after the points deduction. He can qualify for one of the 16 postseason berths by winning an event and placing among the top 30 in the 26-race regular season, or by forging his way in on the basis of points.

With seven winners in seven races so far, and the prospects for more to come, Keselowski said his situation isn’t “go for broke,” but that scratching the win column would be crucial. With the matter closed, Keselowski says his focus is on moving forward.

“Ultimately, our success is not dictated by this or anything else other than our ability to get this team and these cars to where they can compete at a high level and run for race wins,” Keselowski said, “and everything outside of that, to me is just noise.”