NASCAR slams Hendrick and Kaulig with severe penalties

NASCAR issued its biggest penalties yet on Cup Series teams it found had altered parts from a single-source supplier on the Next Gen car.

NASCAR issued penalties on Wednesday to five Cup Series teams – all four Hendrick Motorsports teams and one from Kaulig Racing – for the unapproved modification of a single-source part.

The No. 5 team with driver Kyle Larson, the No. 24 of William Byron, the No. 48 of Alex Bowman – all from Hendrick – and the No. 31 of driver Justin Haley were all penalized 100 driver points, 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.

The No. 9 of Chase Elliott, also from HMS, was docked 100 owner points and 10 playoff points – no driver points since Elliott is currently not driving the car and recovering from an injury.

In addition all five crew chiefs of the respective teams were fined $100,000 and suspended four races each.

The reason for the penalties

The violation was noted as from Sections 6.1.A Time/Manner/Location; 14.1 C&D&Q Overall Assembled Vehicle Rules; Radiator Duct Note: Unapproved modification of a single source vendor supplied part (hood louvers).

Hood louvers are vents in the hood on each manufacturer’s car that serve as a release point for ducts that transfer air out of the radiator.

The use of vents prevents the need of teams’ to tape up the front grille of car, which had been used extensively as a performance adjustment tool in the previous iteration of race car.

During initial inspection last Friday at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR inspectors discovered issues with the hood louvers off all four HMS cars – the No. 5 of Larson, the No. 9 of Berry, the No. 24 of Byron and the No. 48 Bowman.

The teams were allowed to utilize them during practice and they were then confiscated. The teams were allowed to change the louvers prior to Saturday’s qualifying session.

In addition, prior to Cup qualifying last Saturday, NASCAR also confiscated the hood louvers from Kaulig’s No. 31 Chevrolet. The team was allowed to replace them and take part in time trials.

All of the louvers were taken back to NASCAR’s research and development center in Concord, N.C., for further evaluation.

With the introduction of the Next Gen car in the 2022 season, NASCAR updated its penalty system to include much harsher consequences for violations, including the revoking of playoff eligibility, in particular with respect to modifying parts from single source suppliers.

Front Row Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing all were hit with severe penalties last season for altering single source supplied parts.

Hendrick will appeal

HMS will appeal the penalties, releasing the following statement: “On Friday at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR identified louvers on our race cars during voluntary inspection 35 minutes after the opening of the garage and prior to on-track activity. NASCAR took possession of the parts approximately four hours later with no prior communication. The situation had no bearing on Saturday’s qualifying session or Sunday’s race.

“We are disappointed with today’s decision by NASCAR to issue penalties and have elected to appeal based on a variety of facts.”

The team then listed the following things:

– Louvers provided to teams through NASCAR’s mandated single-source supplier do not match the design submitted by 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 post-race inspection.

The organization has also made the ‘strategic decision’ to not ask for a deferral of the crew chief suspensions.

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