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'Definitely no intent' with Brad Keselowski's illegal Talladega parts, crew chief Paul Wolfe says

By Lee Montgomery

RICHMOND, Va. – Twenty seconds cost Penske Racing and Brad Keselowski 25 NASCAR Nationwide Series points.

And the other 25 points NASCAR docked the team and driver were because of a faulty spring, crew chief Paul Wolfe said Friday at Richmond International Raceway.

Keselowski’s No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge failed postrace inspection after it won Sunday’s Nationwide race at Talladega Superspeedway. NASCAR ruled that the left-front spring and the right-front shock of Keselowski’s car failed to meet minimum standards, docking the team and driver 25 points for each violation. Wolfe was also penalized $10,000 for each.

"There was definitely no intent. That’s the frustrating part from my side," Wolfe said with a chuckle. "If I was trying to push the gray area and got caught, OK. But it’s like, ‘Darn.’ It’s just a bum deal."

Wolfe said he doesn’t know what happened with the shock, as NASCAR doesn’t open shocks to see what, if anything, went wrong. NASCAR measures the rebound on shocks by compressing them and then giving a shock 90 seconds to get to correct measurement.

Wolfe, who scored his first victory as a crew chief with the Talladega win, said the Penske shock took 110 seconds to rebound. The left-front shock was well within limits, he said.

"Both those pieces prior to the event were legal pieces," Wolfe said. "Now, the spring, we basically just had a spring that went bad. It happens, and it lost a good bit of rate from where we rated it prior to the event.

"Kind of expected the penalty on the spring. The shock, we were a little disappointed that NASCAR didn’t take it apart and take a look at it to see what went wrong because we’re confident that something broke or something went wrong in the shock to cause it not to pass the gauge.

"We’ve run that shock in previous events this year, the last seven races we’ve been in tech."

Wolfe still hopes NASCAR will take the shock apart at the R&D center in Concord, N.C., allowing Penske officials to see what went wrong. Wolfe said he simply wants to know the cause of the problem, to stop it from happening again.

Wolfe said the spring was a $150 part that failed. The minimum spring rate is 800 pounds, and Wolfe said the spring he used was rated at 825 pounds. He said he "never" pushes the minimum rate to give the spring some room to lose rate. But the Talladega spring was measured about 70 pounds under minimum.

"To lose almost 70 pounds was strange," Wolfe said. "Typically, on these other tracks we don’t run that spring. We run a different style of spring, and we haven’t seen any problems the first seven races."

Penske Racing officials have said they don’t plan to appeal the penalties. Keselowski maintained the lead in the Nationwide Series standings, though his margin over second-place Kevin Harvick dropped from 60 points to 10.

"We sure hope it doesn’t come down to those 50 points at Homestead, but it kinda is what it is<" Wolfe said. "We just need to move forward and keep doing what we’ve been doing."