NASCAR has issued its biggest penalties yet to Cup Series teams that it claims modified single-source parts on the Next Gen car.
NASCAR on Wednesday issued penalties to five Cup Series teams — all four teams from Hendrick Motorsports and one from Kaulig Racing — for the unapproved modification of a single-source part.
Team #5 with driver Kyle Larson, #24 of William Byron, #48 of Alex Bowman – all of Hendrick – and #31 of driver Justin Haley were all penalized 100 driver points , 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.
Chase Elliott’s No. 9, also of HMS, has amassed 100 owner points and 10 playoff points – no driver points as Elliott is not currently driving the car and recovering from injury.
Additionally, the five crew chiefs of the respective teams were fined $100,000 and suspended four races each.
The reason for the sanctions
The violation was found from sections 6.1.A Time/Manner/Place; 14.1 C&D&Q General rules on assembled vehicles; 22.214.171.124.A Radiator Duct Note: Unapproved modification of a sole sourced part (hood louvers).
Hood louvers are vents in each manufacturer’s car hood that serve as a clearance point for ducts that transfer air out of the radiator.
The use of vents saves teams from having to glue down the front grille of the car, which had been used extensively as a performance tuning tool in the previous iteration of the race car.
During initial inspection last Friday at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR inspectors discovered issues with the hood louvers of all four HMS cars – Larson’s #5, Berry’s #9, Byron’s #24 and No. 48 Bowman.
Teams were allowed to use them during practices and they were later confiscated. Teams were allowed to change louvers ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session.
Additionally, ahead of Cup qualifying last Saturday, NASCAR also confiscated the hood louvers of Kaulig’s No. 31 Chevrolet. The team was allowed to replace them and compete in time trials.
All louvers were taken back to NASCAR’s research and development center in Concord, North Carolina for further evaluation.
With the introduction of the Next Gen car during the 2022 season, NASCAR updated its penalty system to include much harsher consequences for violations, including revoking playoff eligibility, in particularly with regard to the modification of parts from sole suppliers.
Front Row Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing were all hit with stiff penalties last season for modifying single-source parts.
Hendrick will appeal
HMS will appeal the penalties by issuing the following statement: “On Friday at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR identified louvers on our race cars during a voluntary inspection 35 minutes after the garage opened and prior to on-track activity. NASCAR took possession of the parts approximately four hours later without notice. 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:
– Louvers provided to teams through NASCAR’s sole vendor do not match the design submitted by the manufacturer and approved by NASCAR
– Documented inconsistent and unclear communication by sanctioning body specifically related to louvers
– Recent comparable penalties issued by NASCAR have been linked to issues discovered during post-race inspection.