NASCAR penalized each of Hendrick Motorsports‘ four Cup Series teams, along with the No. 31 team of Kaulig Racing, with L2-level penalties on Wednesday for unapproved parts modifications last weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Each crew chief was fined $100,000 and suspended for four races, and each team was further penalized with the loss of 100 points and 10 playoff points.
The penalties occurred after NASCAR confiscated the hood louvers from all five cars before Sunday‘s race at Phoenix Raceway. The Hendrick teams involved were the No. 5 Chevrolet driven by Kyle Larson, the No. 9 of Josh Berry (subbing for the injured Chase Elliott), the No. 24 of William Byron and the No. 48 of Alex Bowman; the No. 31 of Justin Haley was the Kaulig team involved. The respective crew chiefs fined and receiving suspensions were Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle and Blake Harris for Hendrick and Trent Owens for Kaulig.
The NASCAR Rule Book section specifically referenced for the penalties was Sections 22.214.171.124.A, which deals with how the radiator duct is assembled. The teams were found with unapproved modification of a single-source vendor-supplied part.
NASCAR permitted the Hendrick teams to use the hood louvers for a 50-minute Cup Series practice session on Friday at Phoenix, but then took the louvers back to the R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, for further examination. Hendrick replaced the louvers, and all four cars passed technical inspection before Sunday‘s race at Phoenix.
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Hendrick‘s William Byron went on to win the race, his second victory in a row and the sixth Cup triumph in his career. All the other Hendrick cars also finished in the top 10, with Larson coming in fourth, Bowman in ninth and Berry in 10th.
Before the penalties, Bowman was atop the Cup Series standings with 154 points and had top-10 finishes in all four races this season. Byron was fourth in the standings, and Larson was fifth, while Berry continued to fill in for the injured Elliott, who underwent surgery on March 3 for a broken left leg and is expected to miss six weeks.
The hood louvers — which you can see on this Next Gen 3D model — are openings or vents in the hood that serve as a release point for ducts that transfer air out of the radiator. The system is intended to decouple engine performance from aero performance, offsetting the practice of teams taping off air intakes and placing undue pressure and heat strain on the car‘s engine.
• In other penalties announced Wednesday, Denny Hamlin was fined $50,000 and lost 25 driver points for violating Sections 4.4 in the NASCAR Member Code of Conduct, which cover — attempting to manipulate the outcome of the race or championship; wrecking or spinning another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from competition as a result; and actions detrimental to stock car racing or NASCAR.
• The No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford driven by Aric Almirola also got hit with a safety violation for the loss or separation of an improperly installed tire/wheel from the vehicle (Sections 126.96.36.199 A&C). Crew members Ryan Mulder and Sean Cotten were suspended for two races.
The Cup Series will be on track at 11:35 a.m. ET on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway for Busch Light Pole Qualifying (FS1, PRN and SiriusXM Radio).
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