NASCAR imposes heavy penalties on Hendrick Motorsports

NASCAR penalized Josh Berry no points because he does not earn points in the Cup Series. He earns points in the Xfinity Series. Chase Elliott will not receive a penalty because he was not driving the No. 9 car when the violation was discovered.

NASCAR seized the hood louvres (air vents) on all four Hendrick cars after Friday’s practice at Phoenix Raceway. Series officials discovered a potential problem before practice, allowed the Hendrick teams to run the session and then took over the parts.

The hood louvers (hood vents) are single source components.

“It was clear to us that these parts had been modified in an area that had not been approved,” said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “This is a consistent penalty to what we experienced last year. … We felt like keeping the garage on a level playing field and the level of competition where it needs to be, all the dialogue that went around this car last year, working with the owners on which should be the deterrent model, we were put in a position where we felt there was no other way but to write a penalty.

Asked if the adjustments could affect downforce, Sawyer said, “We don’t normally get into intent, but I think it’s fair to say… performance could be around these changes.”

While teams can get permission to make minor adjustments to some parts from a single source, Sawyer said the area with the modified hood louvers on the Hendrick cars “wasn’t approved. We felt like the line of communication between NASCAR and the garage was good and that they were clearly out of bounds.

Hendrick Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon alluded to the communications aspect when he discussed the hood louver issue after Sunday’s race in Phoenix.

“We have had and will continue to have discussions with NASCAR,” Gordon said Sunday night. “Each situation is more or less unique, but this is more unique than I’ve seen in a while, where there’s been a lot of back and forth on this particular part, especially for this track because they’ve done a parity test in the wind tunnel.

“I think it really opened the door for some miscommunication. I don’t want to go further than that. We’ll just continue to share all the facts and be transparent with NASCAR, as we’ve been so far.”

NASCAR also issued those penalties to Justin Haley’s No. 31 Kaulig Racing team. NASCAR recorded Haley 100 points and 10 playoff points, suspended crew chief Trent Owens for four races, and fined him $100,000 and penalized the team 100 car owner points and 10 playoff points.

NASCAR increased fines for single-sourced parts last year.

“The car was a collaborative project, designed to highlight the on-track performance and unparalleled capabilities of our teams, drivers and pit crews,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, in January 2022. “Severe penalties will follow to all the teams that go against that draft so that the fans can focus on our drivers and the great racing that is expected from NASCAR.

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