NASCAR issues severe penalties to Hendrick Motorsports
NASCAR severely penalized Hendrick Motorsports on Tuesday for issues with the hood louvers that was discovered on all four Hendrick cars last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.
NASCAR issued the following penalties:
- Docked Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson and William Byron 100 points and also penalized them 10 playoff points each.
- Suspended crew chiefs Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle and Blake Harris four races each. NASCAR also fined each $100,000.
- NASCAR penalized each of the four Hendrick team 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.
Bowman, Byron and Larson had been in the top five in points (Bowman had been the points leader). They all fall outside the top 20 in the standings after losing 100 points.
Hendrick Motorsports said in a statement: “We are disappointed with today’s decision by NASCAR to issue penalties and have elected to appeal based on a variety of facts.”
Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it will not seek a deferral of crew chief suspensions, meaning all four crew chiefs will miss Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Substitute crew chiefs will be announced later.
NASCAR did not penalize Josh Berry any points because he does not earn any points in the Cup Series. He earns points in the Xfinity Series. Chase Elliott is not penalized because he was not driving the No. 9 car when the infraction was discovered.
NASCAR confiscated the hood louvers (air vents) from all four Hendrick cars after Friday’s practice at Phoenix Raceway. Series officials discovered a potential issue before practice, allowed the Hendrick teams to run the session, and then took the parts afterward.
The hood louvers (hood vents) are single-sourced parts.
“It was obvious to us that these parts had been modified in an area that wasn’t approved,” said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “This is a consistent penalty with what we went through last year. ... We felt like to keep the garage on a level playing field and the competition level where it needs to be, all the dialogue that went around this car last year, working with the owners on what the deterrent model should be, we were put in a position where we felt there was no other way but to write a penalty.”
Asked if the modifications could impact downforce, Sawyer said: “We don’t normally get into the intent, but I think it’s fair to say ... could be performance around these modifications.”
While teams can have approval to make minor adjustments on some single-source parts, Sawyer said the area with the hood louvers modified on the Hendrick cars “was not approved. We felt like the communication line between NASCAR and the garage was done properly and obviously they were outside the boundaries.”
Hendrick Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon alluded to the communication aspect when he discussed the hood louver issue after Sunday’s race at Phoenix.
“We had some conversation, will continue to have conversations, with NASCAR,” Gordon said Sunday night. “Every situation is sort of unique, but this is a more unique one than I’ve seen in a while where there’s been a lot of communication back and forth on this particular part, especially for this racetrack because they did a parity test in the wind tunnel.
“I think it really opened up the door for some miscommunication. I don’t want to go any further than that. We’ll continue to just share all the facts and be transparent with NASCAR as we have been so far.”
Hendrick Motorsports stated Tuesday that “unclear communication” was among its reasons for appealing. Hendrick listed its reasoning to appeal on “a variety of facts” that include:
- “Louvers provided to teams through NASCAR’s mandated single-source supplier do not match the design submitted by the manufacturer and approved by NASCAR.
- “Documented inconsistent and unclear communication by the sanctioning body specifically related to louvers.
- “Recent comparable penalties issued by NASCAR have been related to issues discovered during a post-race inspection.”
NASCAR also issued those penalties to the No. 31 Kaulig Racing team of Justin Haley. NASCAR docked Haley 100 points and 10 playoff points, suspended crew chief Trent Owens four races and fined him $100,000 and penalized the team 100 car owner points and 10 playoff points.
NASCAR increased penalties last year on single-sourced parts.
“The car was a collaborative project, designed to emphasize performance at the track and the unrivaled abilities of our teams, drivers and pit crews,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, in January 2022. “There will be strong penalties for any teams who run contrary to that design so the fans can focus on our drivers and the great racing expected from NASCAR.”
Updated points standings after penalties