Secret no more: Brad Keselowski discloses what part got team penalized by NASCAR

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - APRIL 08: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #6 Fastenal Ford, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 08, 2022 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

After weeks of not knowing, Brad Keselowski has revealed what part got his new team into serious trouble with NASCAR.

NASCAR handed down a L2-level penalty to the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing team after the Atlanta race last month a few days after the No. 6 car was taken to the R&D Center in Concord.

Keselowski’s No. 6 car was sent to the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments prior to the race that Sunday and he finished 12th. The car was one of two cars taken back to the R&D Center for further inspection, the other was the No. 9 Chevy of Chase Elliott.

With the introduction of the Next Gen car, which has common parts among manufacturers, NASCAR officials released a stricter penalty structure for the 2022 Cup Series season in January, introducing a list of deterrence options on a three-tiered system — from L1 to L3.

NASCAR said the violations were discovered during teardown inspection at the NASCAR R&D Center the following Thursday. The team was given an L2 penalty and docked 100 driver points and 100 owner points and crew chief Matt McCall was fined $100,000 and suspended from the next four NASCAR Cup Series points races.

What wasn’t revealed at the time was exactly which part, or parts, NASCAR had an issue with. That remained a secret. That’s something that normally doesn’t happen; most often the sanctioning body, or the team will tell the world exactly what the part, or infraction is. Many times, if the offending part is found at a track and seized, it’s put on display in the NASCAR hauler for everyone to see. In the case of the No. 6, the part remained a secret, until Friday night.

At Martinsville Speedway Keselowski talked about the penalty, the part, and what caused it, after he qualified ninth.

“We had repaired a tail panel and it had a key feature that NASCAR deemed was not repaired adequately enough, and it’s a tough situation,” he said. “We didn’t want to run the tail panel. We didn’t have any new tail panels to put on the car. We had a tail panel with three races on it and we did some repairs to it.

“We probably could have done a better job on the repair, and we put NASCAR in a tough spot.  It’s kind of like a trickledown effect. I wish we had, quite frankly, done a better job repairing it, but we can’t go back on it. I understand NASCAR’s position on it. It’s kind of one of those things where everybody is right, and everybody is wrong at the same time. Ultimately, we’ll have to learn to be better for it.”

The team appealed the penalty this past week, and that appeal was denied.

“Our intent to appeal the penalty was to show everybody that we didn’t want to run that tail panel,” Keselowski said. “If we had a new one, we would have ran it to begin with, so it’s a difficult position.

“Ultimately, it’s NASCAR’s position that the parts and pieces have to be right.  I think we made our repairs in good faith, but probably didn’t do a great job.

“Did 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 is really wrong and nobody is really right and it’s probably one of those situations that if we could repeat, we would have begged, borrowed and stole a new tail and put it on the car, but that’s not the world we were living in.  I’m glad that that’s being fixed, but this is the world we’re in now and we’ll go make the most of it.”

Keselowski became co-owner of the former Roush-Fenway Racing team at the start of the season. The penalty was sort of punch in the gut to the new team owner.

“It doesn’t feel good,” he said. “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. Everything outside of that, to me, is just noise.”

Though there is a higher appeal authority the team could turn to, it doesn’t appear they will.

“It’s time for us to move on and focus on what we need to win, and the rest of it is just noise to us.,” Keselowski said.