FOX NASCAR Insider
In a wild 24 hours of NASCAR penalty news, NASCAR emerged relatively victorious in two appeals.
And Hendrick Motorsports is in NASCAR’s crosshairs. Again.
NASCAR docked Hendrick’s Alex Bowman and William Byron 60 points and five playoff points and suspended their interim crew chiefs for two races and fined them $75,000 after a greenhouse modification was found (middle section of car) during a dismantling of their Richmond cars that same year. week at NASCAR’s research and development center.
The suspensions issued Thursday to interim crew chiefs Greg Ives (Bowman) and Brian Campe (Byron) won’t take effect until next week because of the late notice (penalties are usually given on Tuesday or Wednesday), making relatively insignificant considering their interim crew chief. the papers were supposed to end on Sunday with the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
[Hendrick issued largest combined fine in NASCAR history, docked points]
With the points penalties, Bowman dropped from first to seventh in the regular season Cup standings, while Byron, the only driver with two Cup wins this year, dropped from fourth to 14th. Bowman finished eighth at Richmond on Sunday, while Byron led a maximum 117 laps before a crash relegated him to 24th.
It was the second penalty in four weeks issued to the Hendrick Motorsports drivers, who along with their two teammates last week had their 100-point (and 10 playoff) penalties overturned by an appeals board. lations, which upheld $100,000 in fines and four-race suspensions. to their crew chiefs to modify the radiator outlet covers (grilles) last month in Phoenix.
NASCAR probably felt a little vindicated after two appeal decisions on Wednesday and Thursday. A different three-member appeals panel on Wednesday reduced a 100-point penalty to 75 points and upheld the 10-point playoff penalty on Kaulig Racing driver Justin Haley while upholding the $100,000 fine and the four-race suspension of crew chief Trent Owens for breaching the regulations. same rule as the Hendrick cars in Phoenix.
Another three-member panel (two members who were different from those in Kaulig’s appeal) on Thursday upheld NASCAR’s 25-point, $50,000 penalty to Denny Hamlin for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain at Phoenix.
Hamlin sounds out of penalty
Denny Hamlin said “if I’m the only one getting a points penalty from all of this, then there’s something wrong with the system that’s for sure.”
That won’t be the end of news about the penalties in the coming weeks, as Kaulig Racing has already decided to take its case to NASCAR’s final appellate officer, the speedway’s promoter in Langley (Va. .) Bill Mullis. Hamlin will not make a final appeal to Mullis, a Joe Gibbs Racing spokesman said.
Hendrick Motorsports did not immediately say whether it will appeal its most recent penalties against Bowman and Byron.
“We are reviewing the penalties issued today by NASCAR and will determine the next steps after Sunday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway,” the team said in a statement.
NASCAR can inspect any car after the race and regularly takes cars for further teardowns at the competition headquarters in North Carolina. These cars are often called “random” because sometimes the cars are selected at random, but nothing needs to be random.
With the Hendrick cars of Kyle Larson and Josh Berry finishing 1-2 at Richmond, those cars suffered a partial on-track teardown as they were in the top three. These cars are usually not taken in for an additional inspection because they have already had a relatively thorough inspection.
NASCAR opted to bring the other two Hendrick cars of Bowman and Byron to the competition headquarters. He didn’t need another one (usually one or two are never needed, sometimes more), a move that could be seen as a way to fine-tune HMS after the appeals board handed NASCAR a major defeat last week.
NASCAR chief operating officer Steve O’Donnell said Thursday that taking the Hendrick cars after Richmond was not a way to target Hendrick.
“We’ve been taking cars for a long, long time,” O’Donnell said. “We take cars from multiple races. … It can be from any organization at any time, and we’ve maintained that policy throughout my time in NASCAR.”
When Hendrick won his appeal, it appeared that Kaulig would have a good case to receive the same sentence. Kaulig Racing president Chris Rice was obviously frustrated that his team lost its appeal due to its Phoenix penalty, all but a 25-point reduction, while Hendrick’s teams had all 100 points returned.
Byron’s costly crash
William Byron saw his chance to finish solidly at Richmond with the spin on a restart and contact with Christopher Bell.
A louver is a piece that goes over the radiator outlet duct and directs the air over the hood. If it is modified, it can affect the behavior of the car. All blinds are supplied by Dallara and the teams have been given permission to alter the parts so they can fit the bonnet openings. NASCAR determined that Hendrick and Kaulig’s blinds were modified beyond what was permitted.
Haley’s car only had one of two blinds impounded, while the four Hendrick cars had both impounded.
“When you look at everything that’s gone down over the last two weeks, you say, ‘Man, it’s disheartening that Kaulig Racing is sitting here in this position,'” Rice said Wednesday on FS1’s NASCAR Race Hub.
“We won a little bit, got 25 points back, but it’s like, ‘Hey, how are they looking at us?’ How do you see Kaulig Racing in this sport?”
NASCAR appeals panels rarely give reasons for their decisions. They only indicate if a rule has been broken and then if the penalties change. The appeals panel must stay within the penalty options for the breach of the rule, and the blind penalty options (a level 2 penalty) include a point penalty of 75-120 points; meaning the appeals court can decide no points are deducted or 75-120 points can be deducted but not 1-74 points.
Well, that was the rule until Wednesday night when NASCAR updated the wording in the rulebook. The rulebook will now require the appeals court to give reasons if it modifies a penalty.
And if it modifies a penalty, the appeals court cannot remove an entire penalty option, it can only modify within the range of the penalty level that occurred.
The new rules take effect from penalties issued this weekend and beyond: They would not apply to appeals today and would not apply to a Hendrick appeal of penalties issued today.
O’Donnell said the sanctioning body was as frustrated as many in the garage with the Hendrick team having all their points penalties overturned.
“We were as surprised as anyone by that ruling where someone was found to have violated a rule and an appeals court chose to take points away,” O’Donnell said. “Going forward, we’re going to change that because it’s not right. … There’s a reason we put points on a penalty.”
The rules regarding modification of a penalty also apply to the final appeals officer.
In the final appeal, the burden of proof shifts to the team rather than NASCAR.
Kaulig’s crew chief Owens, whose suspension was deferred pending the initial appeal, will begin serving his four-race suspension this weekend at Bristol. Hendrick’s primary crew chiefs had been serving their suspensions once the original Phoenix penalty was issued, and Bristol will be the last of the four-race ban. Crew chiefs who are suspended may be on track, but may not be in the garage or pit road and may not be on the team radio.
The Hendrick penalties announced Thursday were considered Level 1 penalties, a less serious infraction than the penalties issued for Phoenix.
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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