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Kenseth said he doesn’t care that the penalty may affect his reputation as a clean racer. He said anyone with knowledge of the situation knows he and his team had nothing to do with it and gained no advantage. He understands that NASCAR has to police the sport vigilantly, but said “the penalty is way over the top for” the infraction.

He’s not alone and not the only driver hoping the appeals panel provides some relief.

Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski’s team for Penske Racing was punished last week after NASCAR said it found unapproved parts in the rear suspension of Keselowski’s and Joey Logano’s cars at Texas. NASCAR took 25 points away from each driver, fined the crew chiefs $100,000 each and suspended seven Penske employees for six races.

Penske Racing’s appeal is scheduled for May 1.

Most drivers, Keselowski guessed, sympathize with Kenseth.

“I certainly feel bad for him because at the end of the day, Matt doesn’t put together the car and, heck, in this particular situation his team didn’t even put together the engine, so it’s a difficult situation at best,” Keselowski said Thursday at Richmond International Raceway, adding that he also understands that “from NASCAR’s side, they know that if you give an inch, you’ve got to give a mile.”

In the end, said Keselowski, “it’s just a question of whether the penalty fits the crime.”

Later, Kenseth was on the track Thursday practicing in injured JGR teammate Denny Hamlin’s Late Model car, which he agreed to drive in Thursday night’s Short Track Showdown for Hamlin’s charity.

He also was hoping to put the controversy of the past few days behind him, hopefully by Friday.

“My excitement for tonight is at an all-time low,” he said. “It just is right now.”