Brad Keselowski closes book on RFK Racing penalty and appeal

April 8, 2022 Main Image by Brad Keselowski

Megan Thompson | NASCAR Digital Media

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

Keselowski was on the field after practice and qualifying for Friday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway, where he earned the ninth-place start 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 come out of a sizable points deficit from 31st in the Cup Series standings.

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

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

April 8, 2022 Brad Keselowski 2 Main Image
Megan Thompson | NASCAR Digital Media

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

“So it’s one of those situations where I don’t think anybody is really wrong. I mean, no one is 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 live in. I’m glad it’s getting fixed, but this is the world we’re in right now and we’re going to make the most of it.”

Level L2 penalties were issued March 24 after RFK’s #6 Ford was found to be in violation of Sections 14.1 and 14.5 of the NASCAR Rule Book, both headings that relate to modifying a supplied part from a single source for the Next Gen stock car. The punishment meant a loss of 100 points in the drivers’ and owners’ 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, a day before the NASCAR Cup Series teams entered the .526-mile track. A group of three members of the National Motoring Appeals Panel upheld the original penalties.

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

“Probably the biggest surprise was how professionally it was executed,” 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 much 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 introduced a stricter deterrence system this offseason, with the harshest penalties in place for any tampering with or counterfeiting specific parts of the Next Gen car that debuted in Cup competition this year. Keselowski said he understood the new penalty structure and the reasons it was put in place.

“I feel like NASCAR is in a tough position. We have a new car, which comes with a new deterrent model. I think if you look historically, no, that level of penalty would not have been warranted, 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 ask for and strictly enforcing the rules. So, you know, I think the ultimate test will not be that we receive a sanction, but that someone else receives a sanction of a similar nature for doing similar things.”

Keselowski, in his first season as co-owner of the former Roush Fenway Racing operation, ranks 31st in the Cup Series standings after points deduction. He can qualify for one of 16 postseason spots by winning an event and placing in the top 30 in the 26-race regular season, or by working his way up on points.

With seven winners in seven races so far, and the prospect of more to come, Keselowski said his situation is not to go all out, but 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 other than our ability to get this team and these cars to where they can compete at a high level and win races,” Keselowski said, “and everything Others, to me it’s just noise.”