NASCAR has reduced the penalties imposed on Penske Racing for technical violations detected in a pre-race inspection of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano's cars at Texas Motor Speedway last month.
Penske's final appeal against the penalties resulted in NASCAR's chief appellate officer John Middlebrook upholding the team's fines and points deductions after irregularities were detected within the cars' suspension components. But the suspensions of seven Penske crew members were cut from six races to two.
According to NASCAR, the Penske cars breached Rule 20-12, which reads: "All suspension fasteners and mounting hardware must be made of solid magnetic steel.
"All front end and rear end suspension mounts with mounting hardware assembled must have single round mounting holes that are the correct size for the fastener being used.
"All front end and rear end suspension mounts and mounting hardware must not allow movement or realignment of any suspension component beyond component normal rotation or suspension travel."
Team owner Roger Penske and Walt Czarnacki, co-owner of Logano's car and Penske Racing's executive vice-president, were docked 25 owners' points, while Keselowski and Logano each lose 25 drivers' points.
Their crew chiefs were fined $100,000 each and will be suspended until the Charlotte race in late May. They will remain on probation until the end of the year.
Team owner Penske said an important element of Tuesday's appeal was a frank dialogue with Middlebrook and Sprint Cup Series director John Darby.
"Today we had the opportunity to sit down across from John Middlebrook, the chief appellate officer and also John Darby," Penske said after the ruling. "(John) Darby gave us specifics on our penalty – not just sections of the rule book.
"We were able to talk about areas that we worked in, which obviously were undefined in the rule book, and I think, at the end, after consideration by John Middlebrook, he felt that the fines and the penalties were overreaching and made the decision to reduce them."
Penske indicated he was pleased with the outcome and said the team would announce replacements from the suspended personnel later this week.
"We'll go to the track at Darlington without our key members, obviously," Penske said. "We have a real strong bench. It's past us now. We'll move on, and I'll have to say that the process was very fair and equitable that NASCAR was able to provide for Penske Racing and our whole team."
NASCAR spokesperson Kerry Tharp suggested that Tuesday's hearing was a validation of NASCAR's bifurcated appeals process.
"NASCAR is one of the few sports in America that has a two-tier appeals process," Tharp said. "We believe in the teams getting due process when it comes to rules and regulations, and we believe that has happened here again today."
The penalties imposed by NASCAR after the race at Texas were historic in terms of the number of suspensions to key personnel.