Brad Keselowski's Paul Wolfe (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
By Mike Mulhern
John Middlebrook, stock car racing's final appeals judge, rejected stringent suspensions on key crewmen for Roger Penske's two drivers, defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and new teammate Joey Logano, in an anxiously awaited opinion issued Tuesday afternoon.
Middlebrook cut the suspensions on seven Penske crewmen from the original six points races to two races, but he upheld the $200,000 in fines and 25-point penalties.
That means Keselowski and Logano will both be back with full crews for the June 2nd Dover 400.
Paul Wolfe, Keselowski's crew chief, and Todd Gordon, Logano's crew chief, will thus be sidelined for this weekend's Southern 500 at Darlington, S.C., next week's All-Star race, and the May 26th Charlotte 600.
Middlebrook, the long-time General Motors executive who has served three years as the NASCAR-appointed 'National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer,' was ruling on penalties assessed for what NASCAR officials called unapproved changes to the rear ends by the two Ford teams at Texas Motor Speedway April 13th.
"After looking at all the facts and data and interpretations from the rule book, I have decided to uphold the original fines and points penalties," Middlebrook said. "However, I have decided to reduce the suspensions of the seven team members involved from six points races and the all-star race to two points races and the all-star race."
The crucial rule that NASCAR officials said Penske's men violated at Texas:
"All suspension systems and components must be approved by NASCAR. Prior to being used in competition, all suspension systems and components must be submitted in a completed form/assembly to the office of the NASCAR competition administrator for consideration of approval and approved by NASCAR. Each such part may thereafter be used until NASCAR determines that such part is no longer eligible. 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."
Wolfe, Gordon, Jerry Kelley, Brian Wilson, Travis Geisler, Raymond Fox, and Samuel Stanley are the crewmen suspended.
For years John Middlebrook (L, here with Richard Petty) was a top General Motors executive (Photo: GM Racing)