Drivers, teams react to recent penalties handed down by NASCAR

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Several people in the NASCAR garage are hoping for some leniency when it comes to decisions that could affect their season.

The majority will have to come from NASCAR’s appeals panel, though in Josh Williams’ case, he hopes an initial ruling on the penalties won’t be devastating.

Where to start with all the drama? We’ll start with the biggest of the penalties and work our way through the Hendrick Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Williams and Denny Hamlin bruhahas.

Hendrick Motorsports and Kaulig Racing will appeal massive penalties issued for their louvers (radiator vent covers that push air over the hood), which NASCAR determined were illegally modified.

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NASCAR held a media call with reporters on Wednesday to emphasize its position on the penalties issued last week. Teams and drivers reacted over the weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

All four Hendrick drivers (except Chase Elliott, as he was injured and dropped for Phoenix) and teams were penalized 100 points and 10 playoff points, while their crew chiefs were suspended for four races and fined $100,000 each. Kaulig’s Justin Haley received the same penalty.

Hendrick’s vice president, Chad Knaus, held court Friday with reporters to side with the organization.

“We made sure our parts fit on the hood and the hood closed and did all the things it needed to do,” Knaus said.

Hendrick’s appeal probably comes down to two factors:

–NASCAR says it has had discussions with teams about small modifications they could make to the blinds to accommodate them, as the supplier has had trouble getting them to 100 percent NASCAR spec. NASCAR claims Hendrick went far beyond any approved modifications (sources say they modified the rims); Knaus indicated no.

–Hendrick never competed in the pieces, as they were confiscated after practice on March 10 in Phoenix. NASCAR says that doesn’t matter, that it takes any modification of a part from a single supplier very seriously because the whole point of having a supplier is for teams to have the same parts and parts.

“It’s a terrible situation not only for us, but for the industry to be very honest with you,” Knaus said. “That’s what I hate the most. It’s ugly. We shouldn’t be in this situation, and it’s really unfortunate that we are because it doesn’t help anybody.”

No dates have been set for resources.

Team Hendrick responds to penalties

Team Hendrick responds to penalties

Hendrick Motorsports Vice President Chad Knaus shared his thoughts on the penalties NASCAR has challenged his team.

Kaulig’s situation is a bit different. NASCAR confiscated only one blind from its two-car operation (each car has two blinds). Kaulig’s argument will be based on the fact that he only used a supplied part that he did not modify.

“[They’re] showing inconsistencies in the parts provided to teams from NASCAR’s sole supplier, providing no competitive advantage,” the team said in a statement.

Team president Chris Rice promised, “At the end of the day, my guys didn’t do anything wrong.”

Whether having a legal blind and one that NASCAR confiscated from the car makes a difference remains to be seen.

NASCAR’s appeals process consists of a three-member panel appointed by NASCAR. NASCAR has the burden of proof on appeal. If a team loses an appeal, it can make a final appeal to the final appeals officer, but at that hearing, the team has the burden of proof.

Brad Keselowski lost an appeal last year as his team received similar penalties for modifying a rear bumper in a way that NASCAR felt was beyond any acceptable modification at a time when the parts were at a premium.

“It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to us,” Keselowski said. “We came out of it better. It was good for the industry. From our perspective, it changed our culture within the company to where we had better behaviors.

“I thought it set a tone for the industry. . . . It’s very easy, and I’ve been a victim of it, too, to see NASCAR as the go-to guy. In a lot of ways, they’re trying to help us. And trying help the sport and make sure it can be healthy.”

NASCAR may seem to be getting tougher on the situation with Josh Williams, an Xfinity Series driver who became a viral sensation when, out of frustration, he parked his car on Saturday’s starting and finish lines. the AMS and went out with caution. .

Williams was mad that NASCAR had decided to park him for the race for bringing out the caution while under the damaged vehicle policy. NASCAR rarely resorts to such a drastic measure, and Williams had a piece of bear link come off his damaged car that he believes was not the result of a lack of attention to detail, but rather the temperatures. cold

Josh Williams: ‘I was surprised how fast it was’

Josh Williams: "I was surprised how fast it was"

Josh Williams says he didn’t think NASCAR’s call to park him was correct, but it’s in the rule book.

Williams, who flashed a peace sign to NASCAR officials at the tower, will find out Tuesday if he will be suspended. He met with NASCAR officials for 20 minutes after the race.

“I didn’t do it to be spiteful and make a huge scene,” Williams said. “I just wanted to express my opinion that it wasn’t right. But it’s in the rule book.”

Having competed in the series for the past few years, Williams and team owner Mario Gosselin were surprised that NASCAR made the decision to park their car instead of imposing a less severe penalty. But the race had already been marred by a number of cautions and that only made a lackluster race even more disjointed.

“For something like a piece of bear link to fall off and knock us out of the race is really frustrating,” Williams said. “We’re a small team. … It doesn’t do you any good sitting in the garage. It is what it is. We’ll learn from it and move on.”

In terms of learning, perhaps the biggest area the garage is still learning is where the line is as far as what drivers can do if they want to send a message to another driver.

NASCAR docked Denny Hamlin 25 points and fined him $50,000 for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on the final lap March 12 in Phoenix.

NASCAR’s rules state that “NASCAR recognizes that the nature of the sport of stock car racing involves hard and sometimes aggressive racing while jockeying for position that could result in routine racing contact. If considered thus, these are cases that would not normally result in further NASCAR action.”

Hamlin, on his “Actions Detrimental” podcast he records on Mondays, said going in on Chastain wasn’t a mistake. NASCAR senior vice president Elton Sawyer said the sanctioning body thought it was a racing incident until Hamlin admitted intent.

“I’m about to finish in my mid-teens and I said, ‘You’re coming with me, man,’ Hamlin said on his podcast. “It wasn’t a mistake. I let go of the wheel and said, ‘Come with me.'”

At first, Hamlin wasn’t going to appeal. But now he will. He didn’t say anything substantive during his mandatory press session Saturday in Atlanta.

Hamlin will argue that it was routine racing contact, just like other drivers who make contact with each other fighting for position.

Drivers were mixed on whether they know the line.

“We still have a lot of wiggle room, but the things that are different in today’s world are … data and all the things that come with the data side. [that can prove intent]” said Kevin Harvick.

Hamlin’s teammate Martin Truex Jr. isn’t so sure where the line is.

“It’s not clear when they’re going to step in now,” Truex said. “These things happen all the time and they don’t do anything. It’s happened to me before and I wasn’t admitted, but it was like, ‘I did it because it’s a race for a championship.’

“That’s admitting guilt, and nobody does anything. So where is the line now? It’s very, very unclear. And I see Denny probably winning his appeal.”

Drivers can be saved maybe just by leaving their comments.

“If they just see the run, it’s the contact of the run,” said Chastain’s teammate Daniel Suarez. “I don’t think it was anything super intentional in my opinion. What he did wrong is say what he said. That’s what got him in trouble, not what he did on the road.

“We make decisions. He made a decision to look cool in the media. And that’s what he gets.”

Daniel Suarez on Denny Hamlin’s penalty

Daniel Suarez on Denny Hamlin's penalty

Daniel Suarez has spoken about Denny Hamlin’s penalty: “He made the decision to look cool in the media, and that’s what he gets.”

Chastain avoided controversy at all costs.

“I don’t have one,” he said when asked for his opinion. “It’s not my deal.”

Thinking out loud

NASCAR could decide this week whether to keep the longer restart zone it has been using this year, having increased the length by 50 percent at each track.

NASCAR had said at the start of the season that it would test it for five races and then reevaluate it.

Has it been a game changer? No, but the extended restart zone looks like it will give the leader more choice where to step on the gas to restart the race.

Beyond the big Fontana wreck, the new reset zone can’t be faulted for anything bad. So it would behoove NASCAR to keep the expanded zone for at least a handful of races to see if it has a clearer impact.

In News

–Jimmie Johnson announced two new races on his 2023 schedule: this weekend’s race at the Circuit of the Americas and the Memorial Day Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

–Kevin Harvick will switch his number to 29 for the NASCAR All-Star Race as he drives a throwback paint scheme to honor his first career Cup win.

–Speaking of All-Star weekend, Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick will test the tires Tuesday at North Wilkesboro Speedway. The track was not paved for the first Cup event at the track since 1996.

Social reference point

Statistics of the day

Corey LaJoie’s fourth-place finish was his best in 205 career starts.

They said it

“This was kind of an emotional win when you think about what Atlanta Motor Speedway is to our family, the memories that are made here. This is one that we will definitely remember forever.” Joey Logano after winning at a track where he spent part of his pre-teen and teenage years

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register at FOX Sports NASCAR Newscast with Bob Pockrass.

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