Brad Keselowski believed he could overcome the knee-buckling penalty that could have ended his championship chances just five races into his first Cup season as an owner.
NASCAR revealed this week that an inspection of its North Carolina facility found an illegal modification to the No. 6 Ford — this is a serious infraction of the stricter Next Gen rules. The Next Gen is primarily a vendor-supplied spec car and NASCAR won’t allow any modification.
Keselowski, who is now co-owner at RFK Racing was dropped from 16th to 35th in the standings. Keselowski is the Cup Series’ lowest-ranked driver.
It’s not crippling. It’s not what you want. After qualifying 26th on Saturday, Keselowski stated that nobody wants to be in such a position.
“We will get out of this what is in our power. We can either use this time to cry ourselves silly or make progress and become better. “I’m committed to the second of these.”
RFK also received 100 owner points for the No. 6 Ford while crew chief Matt McCall was suspended for four Cup races and fined $100,000. If Keselowski is able to recover and make the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season, then the Cup champion 2012 will be disqualified by 10 points at the reset.
Keselowski refused to reveal what NASCAR had accused RFK Racing doing to its car before last Sunday’s race at Atlanta. This was due to the appeal process. After failing to pass Atlanta’s pre-race inspection, Keselowski was selected for a more thorough teardown at NASCAR R&D.
NASCAR has not disclosed to the industry which part or modifications were made on the Ford. NASCAR President Steve Phelps stated that competition officials decided to withhold the information. Phelps said that the teams were warned in the offseason about a harsh new punishment system.
Phelps stated Saturday that they knew the penalties for manipulating spec parts.
Denny Hamlin was a driver who claimed to know what RFK had modified, but he said it was just “hearsay.” Other drivers called NASCAR for transparency.
Kevin Harvick stated, “If it were that big of an deal, I believe it should be made public.”
Keselowski, who quit Team Penske to purchase a part of Jack Roush’s organization at the end last season, stated that he had “learned more about the No. Atlanta, 6. Roger Penske is Roger Penske’s boss, and his philosophy of team ownership aligns with Roger Penske. Penske doesn’t allow cheating.
Keselowski stated that NASCAR has the responsibility to provide a fair and equal race for competitors, in a way that is respectful of the sport’s interests. It’s our responsibility to be there.
Ryan Blaney won the pole after a spin in practice. Blaney spun Saturday morning practice, and contact with the wall caused a scratch to the No. 12 Ford.
Blaney was ready for action when qualifying started. Team Penske prepared him and Blaney advanced to the final round. His lap of 92.759mph earned him his eighth pole.
Blaney stated, “I would not have believed we’d sit down on the pole after my hit the fence,” while praising NASCAR’s Next Gen racecar’s durability. “I appreciated the soft wall that was there and the resilient car.”
Blaney and Daniel Suarez finished second in a Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing. The Mexican driver expected a strong turnout from supporters at this home race.
Suarez said that “this is one of the rare races that my family and friends can actually come from their home and drive here,” and that he was “impressed with the number of children that were speaking Spanish to him.”
Cole Custer qualified in third place in a Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing. He will be next to Tyler Reddick, who will be starting in a Chevrolet by Richard Childress Racing. Blaney teammate Joey Logano was fifth and Alex Bowman was fifth.
Christopher Bell was seventh in the Toyota Top 10, one spot ahead Joe Gibbs Racing colleague Hamlin. Justin Haley from Kaulig Racing and Austin Cindricof Penske completed the top 10.
FanDuel race favourite Chase Elliott qualified 12th. He is the defending winner of the race and the only Hendrick driver without a win this year.
ENDS AND ODDS
Bubba Wallace claimed that the hit he received in the Atlanta late-race crash was the most difficult of his life. However, he wouldn’t reveal the force of what he experienced. Chase Elliott indicated that he would be interested in joining the three-driver lineup of the 24 Hours of Le Mans partnership between NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, if he had the weekend off from Cup Series. He stated that he will not miss the All-Star non-points race to compete. Denny Hamlin said that several teams were upset that NASCAR is doing the Le Mans Project with Hendrick, Chevrolet, and because it would allow Hendrick to test the Next Gen. “I don’t see how they can lose an advantage.”