Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Hendrick, Kaulig, and Hamlin Handed Penalties Following Phoenix

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

Following last Sunday’s United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway, all eyes were on NASCAR penalty day to see what penalties, if any, would stem from the weekend in the Arizona desert.

On Wednesday, the report was released, with a number of teams caught in the sanctioning body’s crosshairs.

Most notably, Hendrick Motorsports had the hammer dropped on them for the hood louvers that were taken from all four team cars after practice. Though the team still dominated on Sunday with new parts, a cloud still hung over their victory celebration with possible penalties looming.

When the dust settled, all four teams, including the No. 5 of Kyle Larson, No. 9 of Josh Berry, who is subbing for the injured Chase Elliott, the No. 24 of race winner William Byron, and the No. 48 of Alex Bowman were docked 100 points and 10 playoff points.

In addition, the crew chiefs for all four teams (Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle, and Blake Harris) were fined $100,000 and handed a four race suspension.

Shortly after the penalties were announced, Hendrick Motorsports put out a statement on their intentions to appeal the penalty and laid out its case for appeal.

The statement reads as follows:

“On Friday at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR identified louvers on our race cars during a voluntary inspection 35 minutes after the opening of the garage and prior to on-track activity. NASCAR took possession of the parts approximately four hours later with no prior communication. 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 that include: 

·         Louvers provided to teams through NASCAR’s mandated single-source supplier do not match the design submitted by the manufacturer and approved by NASCAR
·         Documented inconsistent and unclear communication by the sanctioning body specifically related to louvers
·         Recent comparable penalties issued by NASCAR have been related to issues discovered during a post-race inspection”

Hendrick added in the statement that though an appeal is forthcoming from the team, they would sit out their crew chiefs for this weekend’s race in Atlanta.

Hood louvers were also taken from the No. 31 team at Kaulig Racing and the same penalties that were directed at Hendrick also applied to Kaulig. Crew chief Trent Owens will be on the sidelines for the next four weeks, same as the Hendrick crew chiefs.

Along with the penalties handed down to Hendrick and Kaulig, Denny Hamlin was also penalized on Wednesday following comments he made on his Dirty Mo Media podcast “Actions Detrimental” about a late race run-in he had with his on again, off again rival Ross Chastain.

For those comments, Hamlin was fined $50,000 and docked 25 points under the Code of Conduct in the NASCAR Rule Book. The sections specifically listed were B. “Attempting to manipulate the outcome of the race or championship and wrecking or spinning another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from competition as a result.” D. “Actions NASCAR finds to be detrimental to stock racing or NASCAR.”

NASCAR Senior VP of Competition Elton Sawyer explained after the penalty was announced that the sanctioning body originally viewed the incident between Hamlin and Chastain as a “racing incident,” but after Hamlin made his comments, they were forced to act.

“When you start admitting that you have intentionally done something that would compromise the results of the end of the race, it rises to the level that we’re going to get involved,” Sawyer said.

Aric Almirola’s No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team was also hit with a penalty for losing a wheel on the race track on Sunday, with two pit crew members (front tire changer Ryan Mulder and jack man Sean Cotton) suspended for two races.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.