A controversy a week seems to be the rule this season. We’ve had Kyle Larson going into the fence at Daytona followed by Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin at Bristol, closely followed by Joey Logano and Denny again at California and then the unexpected Joey and Tony near fight (water bottle toss) at California, followed by the Penske teams and rear housings at Texas. Let’s look at the facts.
The Daytona accident is still yet to be solved. Several people were injured and the seemingly impossible happened, and yet no word from either NASCAR or Daytona International Speedway if a solution has been found. Hamlin and Logano got together at Bristol when it appeared that Logano had the faster car and Hamlin got impatient, but the bad feelings continued on. In what was a superior race at California Speedway, it looked like hard racing, but Hamlin suffered an injury. Logano, not knowing that Hamlin was hurt said some things that probably weren’t appropriate, and Denny still appears to be bitter. Apparently the two communicated some way and it didn’t go well.
In the meantime, Logano seems to have turned the corner as a competitor. With the exception of Martinsville, Logano has been a changed driver. He has been at the front for most races and even at Texas where he didn’t seem to have a chance of being even competitive. The controversy of the week is the reason.
I follow the stories from the tracks even when I’m not there, and this blindsided me. Last week at Martinsville, I was dumbstruck at the penalty assessed to 2012 champion Brad Keselowski for pitting out of the pit box. My vantage could see that he was squarely in the box, and I was sitting in the press box, high above the track. The FOX crew said as much and yet he was penalized. It didn’t get much publicity in the euphoria of another Jimmie Johnson win at the Paper Clip or Danica Patrick finishing so well. It continued along this week at Texas.
Both Penske cars, those of Logano and Keselowski, went through two inspections at Texas without any problems until Saturday morning. Both cars were found to have rear end housings that violated the “spirited of the rules,” and the teams were ordered to change the rear end housings before they could race. Both teams made it into the field, Keselowski first and Logano barely making the race. To add insult to injury, Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford was taken to NASCAR’s technical facility for inspection. Both cars finished in the top 10, Logano in the top five, at race’s end, but Keselowski was livid.
His tirade after the race wasn’t caught on FOX’s nationwide coverage, but was played on SPEED’s post- race coverage. It was mild compared to Tony Stewart’s confrontation of Logano after the California race, but it accused NASCAR of targeting his team and that’s where the controversy starts. Denny Hamlin was fined for saying the Gen 6 car wasn’t all that. So what is going to happen this week? Will NASCAR fine the team or will it fine Keselowski for his comments? Greg Biffle says he saw the parts in question outside the NASCAR hauler and said the housing was “slotted,” whatever that means. Regardless, it should be an interesting week. Keselowski has shown that he is outspoken and not willing to not comment when something is unfair. That’s a stark difference in what we see in the multiple- times Hendrick Motorsports’ team No 48 team has been found to be in violation of the rules or at least pushing the envelope of the rules. Driver Johnson has been mostly silent, so it will be interesting if some penalties will be assessed. What is the better strategy? We will soon see. Remember the last case like this ended up with Hendricks team avoiding a penalty, except for the monetary fine. Nevertheless, it’s just another controversy that has to be resolved.
My best guess is that no penalties will be assessed. Brian France said earlier in the season that the only subject that was off-limits was the Gen6 car. Unless they find something totally against the rules in the Penske rear housings, the “slap on the wrist” will be in order. Keselowski’s comments were mild compared to Tony Stewarts after California, so the language, all beeped out, should not be a problem. Keselowski heads to the White House today, and any announcement is not likely. If penalties are announced, even tomorrow, maybe Keselowski was right. We will soon know.