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Hit by NASCAR penalty, Logano says team doesn’t cheat

By Jenna Fryer

AP Auto Racing Writer

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Joey Logano defended Team Penske as the “most professional” team in auto racing Friday, one day after he was virtually stripped of his win at Richmond.

“I think we push as hard as we can because we’re looking for hundredths of a second, every race team is,” he said. “We’re going to have to push as hard as we can to be successful, and sometimes you go over that line.   Apparently, every now and again, you may, but you have to find that edge and get right to it, and it’s a fine line.  If you go a little bit over, we’re sitting with what we’re talking about today.”

Logano’s winning car at Richmond last weekend failed post-race inspection at NASCAR’s North Carolina headquarters and the sanctioning body on Thursday all but stripped him of his victory .

Logano keeps his trophy, but the win will not count toward playoff eligibility and Logano will not receive the five bonus playoff points. NASCAR also fined crew chief Todd Gordon $50,000 and docked both Logano and Team Penske 25 points each.

“What we got in trouble for was something that really didn’t make our car any faster,” Logano said. “I still look at it as a win.  Obviously, from the outside we’ve lost all the benefits of the win. We’ve lost the playoff points. We’ve lost a lot of regular points. We’ve lost our crew chief for a couple of weeks.  We’ve lost some cash.  The penalty is pretty severe. It wasn’t like it was a big thing, but the rule is written and it’s black and white.  We pushed a little bit too far and we’ll pay that penalty and move on and attack again.”

Meanwhile, Logano teammate Brad Keselowski is embroiled in a lengthy appeal over a March failed inspection . His crew chief, Paul Wolfe, was initially suspended three races and fined $65,000 because the No. 2 team failed the laser inspection station after a fifth-place finish at Phoenix on March 19. The team was also docked 35 points. Wolfe already sat out one race, at California, but Team Penske later appealed. Wolfe is permitted to work during the appeal process.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel heard the Penske appeal on April 12 and upheld the penalties. Team Penske has gone to the last step, final appeals officer Bryan Moss. A hearing is scheduled for May 9.

Wolfe is sitting out this week’s race, too. If Moss upholds the penalties, Wolfe would have to miss next weekend’s race at Kansas but he would be able to return for the All-Star race and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Team Penske has engineer Brian Wilson replacing Wolfe for Keselowski at Talladega.

Penske is not appealing the Logano infraction, so Gordon will miss Talladega and Kansas. Race engineer Miles Stanley will be Logano’s crew chief at Talladega with Greg Erwin assisting on strategy Sunday.

Gordon, meanwhile, said a part was about 1/32 of an inch off during the post-race inspection. The crew chief told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Friday that the gap was between the pinion shim and the truck arm surface on the right truck arm.

“It was legal when it rolled across the NASCAR inspection platform to start with, and I would say just race loads and everything else, it became low enough in load that the back of the pinion gap opened up a 32nd of an inch,” he said.

Logano, acknowledging ignorance when it comes to all the moving parts and pieces of his Ford, added: “The rule is black and white that it must be flush and we apparently had a little bit of a gap.”

Keselowski finished second to his teammate at Richmond and his car was also taken for a further inspection. His Ford passed, and many wondered if the difference in the two Penske entries was that Keselowski was clearly swerving on his cooldown lap — perhaps an attempt to knock a part back into place.

Logano was adamant that swerving had nothing to do with the penalty process.

“As a race car driver am I in tune to of what’s going on? To a certain point,” Logano said. “It has nothing to do with swerving.”

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More AP auto racing: http://racing.ap.org

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