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Penske stands by team in wake of Richmond scandal

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DAN GELSTON | September 22, 2013 02:04 PM EST | AP

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LOUDON, N.H. — Roger Penske was set to surrender his usual spot on the spotter stand for a seat in a suite.

It's one concession from the fallout of the Richmond scandal.

But Penske, back at a NASCAR track for the first time since the sport's big embarrassment, insisted his team was in the clear and knew nothing about a deal with Front Row Motorsports to get Joey Logano into the Chase.

"We didn't do anything, quite obviously," Penske said Sunday at New Hampshire. "When I heard the crew chief on whatever car it was made all this big noise, we didn't have any deal at all. That's how people role play stuff in NASCAR. I think at the end of the day, it worked out for everybody and we're moving on."

The arrangement was brought to light in a late race conversation between Front Row team members, who were willing at Richmond to have David Gilliland move aside for Logano in exchange for something it had previously asked for from Penske Racing.

When told to relay that information to Logano's spotter, the crew chief is told the request for track position is coming from the "whole committee."

"We've got the big dog and all of his cronies," the spotter said in an apparent reference to team owner Penske and other team employees.

There was no evidence of any wrongdoing on Logano's analog radio communications, which are accessible to the public.

But NASCAR placed both Penske Racing and Front Row on probation, banned digital radios on the spotter stand - its possible the Penske team communicated over the a private, digital radio - and only one spotter per team will be allowed on the stand.

That means Penske – believed to have been "The Big Dog" referred to in the Front Row radio chatter - can no longer watch the race from his preferred perch on the roof, and NASCAR has installed a camera atop every roof to monitor things.

Penske said he had only watched one race at a NASCAR track from a spot other than the spotter stand.

"I'm going to find a nice spot in the suite," he said, "or maybe I'll stay home and watch on TV."

Penske has plenty on his plate besides dealing with NASCAR's penalties and hoping Logano can rebound from his 12th-place spot in the Chase to work his way into contention.

His IndyCar Series team signed former Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya to mark an open-wheel return and he's trying to find a Cup ride in 2014 for Sam Hornish Jr.

Hornish is closing in on a championship in the Nationwide Series but his status for next season is up in the air. With Logano and defending champion Brad Keselowski locked into the two Penske Cup seats, there's no room at Penske in the top series for Hornish, who has made 93 career Nationwide starts for Penske and has run 130 Cup races for him since 2007.

Hornish is a three-time IndyCar champion and the 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner for Penske.

Penske said he's yet to make a decision on Hornish's future.

"There have been other teams that have contacted him," he said. "I just told him, `Hey, take a good look and see what's out there.' That's what we're doing right now."

Montoya was signed without any sponsorship. Montoya will team next season with current IndyCar points leader Helio Castroneves and Will Power while driving for Penske, winner of 15 Indianapolis 500s.

Penske said plenty of sponsors were interested in Montoya, especially with a car that should contend for win at the Brickyard.

"He's exactly what we want," Penske said. "I think he's great for the series. The series is very good right now. We just need some continuity."

Also on Penske's to-do list, keeping 19-year old Ryan Blaney in the organization. Blaney earned his first Nationwide Series victory Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. He held off Austin Dillon and survived several late cautions to take the checkered flag.

Penske wanted Blaney to run in the Truck Series next year, along with some Nationwide races.

"He showed he's as good or better as anyone out there," Penske said.

Penske also ruled out any interest in Martin Truex Jr. or expanding his Cup team or Nationwide teams beyond two cars each.