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Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, a driver for Penske Racing, signed autographs Friday at Kansas Speedway. Team owner Roger Penske denies cheating allegations.
Camping World Truck Series driver Matt Crafton celebrates with his crew in victory lane after winning a NASCAR Camping World Series truck race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, April 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Saturday, April 20, 2013
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Roger Penske maintained Saturday his team was working in a gray area of the rule book when NASCAR confiscated parts from the cars of defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano.
“I certainly don’t think it’s cheating,” Penske told The Associated Press on Saturday at the IndyCar race in Long Beach. “You are looking at the rules and you are working in a gray area. We all work in the gray areas. We’re trying to be as competitive as we can be, we’ve got very creative minds and it takes a lot of creative minds to be competitive.
“There are many different areas we are all working on. We just looked at a particular rule that maybe NASCAR has a different view of. Now we’ll get a chance to have an unbiased panel look at it.”
NASCAR seized parts from the rear-end housings of both Penske Racing Fords during pre-race inspection at Texas last Saturday. On Wednesday, NASCAR suspended both crew chiefs and five other team members for six races, levied $200,000 in fines and docked each driver 25 points.
Penske will appeal to a three-member panel.
He maintained the parts on both cars had been approved by NASCAR, but officials have accused the team of modifying them after approval.
“NASCAR has approved parts and unapproved parts. The parts that we had were approved parts, they are concerned that we modified them. That’s where the discussion is,” he said. “From an overall standpoint, NASCAR felt what we had provided them for approval then, these parts were different during the inspection process.”
It’s not clear if the organization was working in an area it believes is not addressed in the rule book or if it was blatant disregard for the rules because NASCAR hasn’t publicly detailed its case against Penske.
But, the rule book was specifically changed this season to address many of the modifications teams were doing last year to the rear-end housings. Among the changed language to the passage is that all suspension systems and components must be presented “in a completed form/assembly” prior to being used in competition.
A second new passage clearly states, “all front end and rear end suspension mounts and mounting hardware must not allow movement or realignment of any suspension component beyond normal rotation or suspension travel.” That puts in writing that NASCAR will not tolerate teams altering the skew of the rear ends the way they did a year ago.
Penske said there was no prior warning from NASCAR that the team was potentially in violation of the rules, and that Logano’s car had already cleared tech before inspectors called him back after taking parts from Keselowski’s car. Logano barely made the start of the race, which Penske said was because of the way NASCAR conducted the inspections.
Hamlin could return next weekend
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Denny Hamlin could return to the Sprint Cup series next weekend at Richmond for the first time since a crash March 24 at California left him with a compound fracture in his back.
Doctors told Hamlin he would miss at least five races when he suffered the injury in a last-lap accident. But he told reporters on Saturday at Kansas Speedway that there’s a chance he could return at his home track, where he’s a two-time winner.
If doctors clear Hamlin, it would give his Joe Gibbs Racing team more time to make up ground in the points race and still qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Brian Vickers will start 16th for today’s race in the No. 11 Toyota.
Crafton wins at Kansas for third Truck victory
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Matt Crafton called his truck “junk,” and his crew chief tossed and turned all night, trying to come up with ways to make it better in time for Saturday’s race.
They changed out springs, adjusted shocks, messed with sway bars.
“We made wholesale changes,” Crafton said, “and luckily it worked.”
Crafton charged to the lead with 29 laps remaining in a crash-filled race at Kansas Speedway, and then held off a late run by Joey Coulter to pick up his third career Truck Series victory.
Crafton and Coulter were engaged in a spirited game of cat-and-mouse over the final 20 laps, but Crafton maintained his truck-length lead as they crossed the start-finish line, allowing him to celebrate his first win since Iowa in 2011 with a burnout that tore up one of his rear tires.
“I think track positioning was everything, and it was whoever got out front,” said Crafton, who has made 298 starts in the Truck Series.
“I knew Joey was there, and he had a very fast truck,” Crafton said, “and it’s awesome to know that Joey isn’t going to be one of those drivers who’s going to do something stupid.”
Coulter chased Crafton across to finish second.
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