By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Penalties, penalties, and more penalties.
Over the course of the last week, the NASCAR airwaves have been ablaze with penalty talk, with a stem of appeals being heard and the results that came afterwards only fanning the flames.
Hendrick Motorsports was the first to have their appeal heard for a penalty dating back to Phoenix in which the team was alleged to have modified the hood louvers on their four team cars, which went against the rule the sanctioning body put in place for messing with single source parts on the Next Gen car.
Kaulig Racing was also penalized for issues with a hood louver on one of their Camaros at the same event.
Both teams were docked 100 points and 10 playoff points, as well as getting hit with a $100,000 fine per car and four race suspensions for their crew chiefs, but when the penalties went to appeal, the similarities between the eventual outcome differed greatly.
Hendrick was found to have violated the rule, but the appeals panel elected to restore their points, while keeping the monetary fine and crew chief suspensions in place.
Kaulig, however, was not as lucky. A different three member appeals panel deviated from the Hendrick decision and only gave Kaulig back 25 of their 100 regular season points instead of the full slate like Hendrick got. The remainder of the penalties also were unchanged.
Of course, this incensed the NASCAR fanbase, with the appearance of playing favorites with one of the sport’s most successful teams getting off relatively scot-free.
Kaulig did not agree with the decision either and has elected to move their appeal even further up the flagpole to the Final Appeals Officer in hopes of a more ideal outcome.
As a result of the vast discrepancy in the appeals decisions between Hendrick and Kaulig, NASCAR issued a rulebook update on Thursday in hopes of closing any loopholes in the appeals process that may have existed beforehand.
Going forward, the appeals panel or Final Appeals Officer may not strike out any element of a penalty completely, instead the modifications will have to stay within the minimum and maximum range for the various penalties.
The new rules could be getting their first major test very soon as Thursday also saw Hendrick handed another penalty, this time stemming from two of its cars taken back to the NASCAR R&D Center following the race at Richmond last weekend.
The No. 24 car of William Byron and No. 48 car of Alex Bowman were the “random” selections after the race and during teardown, it was discovered that the team had modified the greenhouse area of those cars, violating Section 14.1.D Overall Assembled Vehicle Rules, 14.1.2.B Engineering Change Log and 14.5.6.B: Greenhouse in the rulebook.
Both teams were docked 60 points and five Playoff points, dropping Bowman and Byron from first and fourth in the standings, respectively. In addition, Brian Campe and Greg Ives, who were serving as replacements for the team’s normal crew chiefs while they serve their suspensions, will have two-race suspensions of their own starting April 13. A fine of $75,000 was also doled out to each team.
In a statement released shortly after the penalty was announced, Hendrick stated that they would be reviewing the penalties and announcing their next steps after the conclusion of this weekend’s race at Bristol.
Last, but not least in all of the penalty talk that has dominated the conversation of the last week was the penalty handed down to Denny Hamlin for his comments on his Actions Detrimental podcast following the race at Phoenix.
Hamlin had his penalty appeal heard on Thursday, but no modifications were made to his penalty and the full punishment of $50,000 and 25 driver points still stands.
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