SPARTA, Ky. — Brad Keselowski’s standing in the chase for his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship is an encouraging sign of where his team is headed.
The Penske Racing driver foresees a better outlook once his team gets a handle on the circuit’s rules process.
Keselowski was docked six points by NASCAR on Tuesday after his No. 2 Ford failed post-race inspection at Dover for being too low. Combined with April’s 25-point penalty for having an illegal part at Texas, he enters this weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway 10th in points instead of possibly fourth.
While neither the team nor Keselowski disputes NASCAR’s latest punishment, Keselowski said it has them more determined to bounce back and earn their first victory of the season, which they believe is within reach.
“I completely understood this week’s (penalty) and kind of stick up for NASCAR on that one. The other one, not so much,” Keselowski said during a promotional stop Wednesday at Kentucky Speedway.
“But at this point, it kind of is what it is and you have to move forward and focus on the task at hand, which is having a strong run through the summer, winning races and be in position for the Chase.”
Keselowski is coming off a fifth-place run at Dover, his fifth top-five this season and the first since Bristol in March. He jumped two spots to eighth in points before the penalty that dropped him back down to the 10th and final spot in the Chase.
Before returning to one of the five tracks he won on last season in a Dodge, Keselowski and the Penske team met in North Carolina to discuss the penalties that included a $25,000 fine for crew chief Paul Wolfe.
Sunday marked the first race back for Wolfe and several crew members for Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano after serving a three-race suspension — reduced from six on appeal — for the Texas infraction. The team issued a statement Tuesday blaming a broken part for the violation but added that it won’t appeal the penalty.
“Did it affect the car’s performance and racing condition? Probably not,” Keselowski said of the part’s failure. “But the rules are what the rules are, and they said the car must return statically and the car didn’t.
“It was just a simple installation issue that we addressed, and you kind of shrug your shoulders and say these things happen, let’s try not to let them happen again and move on.”
With eight top-10 finishes entering the second half of the Sprint Cup’s regular season, Keselowski likes where things are despite the penalties and expects improvement now that everyone is back.
“I don’t have to make anything up. I’m already in the Chase as it stands today,” he said. “That’s an important part to acknowledge…
”I’d like to see us perform at a higher level, absolutely. I want to have wins. But I’m not throwing out an anchor and panicking. I don’t think we’re that far off.”