Toyota Owners 400: Keselowski sympathies with Kenseth, defends NASCAR

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Keselowski can relate to what Matt Kenseth has gone through this week. But the defending Sprint Cup Series champion also understands the difficult position NASCAR finds itself in.

As Matt Kenseth comes to terms with the heavy penalties levied against himself and his team, Brad Keselowski knows all too well what he is going through.

It was just last week when NASCAR decided to suspend seven members of Penske Racing and strip Keselowski and Joey Logano of 25 points apiece along with fining their crew chiefs $100,000, respectively.

And just as Kenseth is astounded about the scope of the penalties imposed, that was Keselowski a week ago.

"I certainly feel bad for him because at the end of the day Matt doesn't put together the car," Keselowski said Thursday at Richmond International Raceway. "Heck, in this particular situation his team didn't even put together the engine, so it's a difficult situation at best."

Keselowski feels the penalties against Kenseth are harsh considering there was no competitive advantage gained. In his opinion, Kenseth didn't win Sunday at Kansas Speedway because an engine rod was 2.7 grams too light.

The No. 20 team went to Victory Lane because it had the best car, not because it had an illegal motor.

"I think it's pretty obvious that when you look at Matt's issue the pieces and the parts were not that influential to the performance, and probably didn't win him the race," Keselowski said. "I think an objective driver who has experience in the sport, that really understands what's going on, is probably gonna feel bad for him and feel like he probably didn't deserve what he got.

"Certainly there are gonna be those that aren't objective, but I can tell you that if I had what he had last weekend, I wouldn't have finished any better."

But Keselowski also recognizes that NASCAR is in a tough position in trying to police a sport where the competition is continually trying to find ways to work around the rules.

Ideally, the sanctioning body would give teams the benefit of the doubt and grant leniency when an infraction was inadvertent -- such as the case involving Kenseth when the part in question was obtained from a third-party.

This tolerance, however, would create another dilemma -- one Keselowski readily acknowledges.

"From NASCAR's side, they know that if you give an inch, you've got to give a mile," he said. "So it's basically what we lack in the sport is some kind of proportionate response to manage that. I think that's really what you're seeing. It's a pretty significant penalty."

What Keselowski doesn't like to see is a team being labeled "cheaters" because it ran afoul of the NASCAR rule book.

The defending Sprint Cup champion says in some cases it's no different than a football player getting flagged for holding or a basketball player being called for a charge.

It is that perception that has Keselowski concerned. His Penske team has a long history of avoiding issues in technical inspection and he doesn't want one incident to tarnish an otherwise pristine reputation.

"I know I personally don't enjoy answering the questions from fans in the scenarios we've been presented over the last few weeks about, ‘Does this mean you're a cheater?,'" he said.

"When you're pushing to the limits, sometimes things just step over, whether it's intentional or not. It sounds like that's what happened with Matt and, unfortunately, we don't have a system to really keep that in check without it becoming almost a death penalty situation. Those penalties are severe enough where you could certainly put them in that case."

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