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Brad Keselowski explains RFK Racing infraction, seeks to move forward

Marty Snider and Dale Jarrett preview this weekend's race at Martinsville and explain why, aside from Phoenix, it may be the most important race within the spring part of the NASCAR calendar.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Brad Keselowski said a repaired tail panel was the piece that NASCAR cited in penalizing the team 100 points, $100,000 and more after the March 20 Atlanta race.

RFK Racing lost its appeal this week. Keselowski spoke to reporters Friday at Martinsville Speedway, explaining what happened.

“(The tail panel) had a key feature that NASCAR deemed was not repaired adequately enough,” Keselowski said. “It’s a tough situation. We didn’t want to run the tail panel. We didn’t have any new tail panels to put on the car. We had a tail panel with three races on it and we did some repairs to it. We probably could have done a better job on the repair and we put NASCAR in a tough spot.

“It’s kind of like a trickle-down effect. I wish we had, quite frankly, done a better job repairing it, but we can’t go back on it. I understand NASCAR’s position on it. It’s kind of one of those things where everybody is right and everybody is wrong at the same time. Ultimately, we’ll have to learn to be better for it.”

NASCAR discovered an infraction at its R&D Center.

Keselowski was docked 100 points for a modification of a single-source supplied part. RFK Racing lost 100 points in the owner standings. NASCAR penalized the team 10 playoff points should Keselowski make the playoffs. Crew chief Matt McCall was fined $100,000 and suspended four races. Martinsville will be the third race he misses with this penalty.

RFK Racing appealed, but the National Motorsports Appeals Panel upheld the penalty April 7.

“Our intent to appeal the penalty was to show everybody that we didn’t want to run that tail panel,” said Keselowski, who attended the hearing. “If we had a new one, we would have run it to begin with, so it’s a difficult position. Ultimately, it’s NASCAR’s position that the parts and pieces have to be right. I think we made our repairs in good faith, but probably didn’t do a great job.

“Did I think there was a competitive advantage? Probably not, but we put NASCAR in a tough position of having to make a judgment call and that’s not fair to them, so it’s one of those situations where I don’t think anybody is really wrong and nobody is really right.

“It’s probably one of those situations that if we could repeat, we would have begged, borrowed and stole a new tail and put it on the car, but that’s not the world we were living in. I’m glad that that’s being fixed, but this is the world we’re in now and we’ll go make the most of it.”

RFK Racing announced it would not appeal the decision to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer.

“It’s time for us to move on and focus on what we need to win, and the rest of it is just noise to us,” Keselowski said.

He qualified ninth Friday. Teammate Chris Buescher qualified fourth for Saturday’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1). It’s a big step for a team that failed to have either car advance to the feature in the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in February.

“We’ve made major progress,” Keselowski said. “We unloaded at the Coliseum and we were a mile off. We didn’t get where we need to be. Both cars missed the main race and today we’ve got two cars in the top 10. … We’re significantly more competitive and starting to get our feet underneath us.”

Keselowski needs to be. He’s 31st in points entering Saturday night’s race.

“I don’t think you’re going to make the playoffs if you don’t win races this year,” he said. “Not that the penalty doesn’t hurt, not that it’s not impactful, it is.”