Chad Knaus says Hendrick will appeal ‘disappointing’ penalties

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 05: William Byron, driver of the #24 Chevrolet, pitsduring the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 05, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Hendrick Motorsports received a penalty from NASCAR on Wednesday for unapproved adjustments. The penalty follows NASCAR confiscating louvers on the team’s four cars last Friday afternoon before practice at Phoenix Raceway

The penalties assessed by NASCAR are a loss of 100 points in the driver and owner standings for each team, a fine of $100,000 to each team, a loss of 10 playoff points to each driver and team and four-race suspensions for each crew chief.

Hendrick Motorsports team president and general manager Jeff Andrews and vice president of competition Chad Knaus contended instead that the louvers provided to teams through NASCAR’s mandated single-source supplier do not match the design submitted by the manufacturer and NASCAR.

“We in the garage – every one of these teams here are being held accountable to put their car out there to go through inspection and perform at the level they need to,” Knaus said to reporters Friday at Atlanta. “The teams are being held accountable for doing that. Nobody is holding the single source providers accountable at the level that they need to be to give us the parts that we need. That goes through NASCAR’s distribution center and NASCAR’s approval process to get those parts and we are not getting the right parts.

“There’s so many areas that we have to continue to improve upon. That’s where I am probably the most disappointed. We are going down this path, working collectively as a group for quite some time and for this to pop up like this is really disappointing.”

“We made sure our parts fit the hood, and the hood closed and did all the stuff that it needed to do.”

In the team’s statement announcing its plans to appeal the penalty, Hendrick Motorsports said, “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.”

Knaus also specifically denied rumors that the louvers were from NASCAR’s Garage 56 entry, which Hendrick Motorsports is organizing.

“No, that’s not it at all,” Knaus refuted. “That’s a completely different package. It doesn’t even have the same cooling package or the same engine.. nothing of that translates.”

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – MARCH 12: William Byron, driver of the #24 Valvoline Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 12, 2023 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

William Byron won for the second straight race and Hendrick Motorsports placed all four of its cars in the top 10 at Phoenix.

“We shouldn’t be in this situation, and it is really unfortunate that we are because it doesn’t help anybody,” Knaus said of the penalties.

Knaus added that the team typically even puts its cars in for voluntary inspection.

“I don’t understand why you would be hung and quartered for a voluntary inspection thing that typically you would be told, ‘hey, you need to go work on that or hey, we need to discuss what is going on,'” Knaus said.

The lag time between the voluntary inspection and when the parts were taken was also something that has contributed to more questions.

“It is really confusing,” Knaus said. “We knew that there was some attention to that area when we first went through technical inspection and that is what is really disappointing to me quite honestly, is that we had plenty of time to get those parts off the car if we felt like there was something wrong.”

The severity of the penalty for something found in a voluntary inspection being the same as something found in post-race inspection during the Next Gen era was something Andrews touched on in his comments.

“If you look back at 2022 and the L2 penalties that were handed out, all of those were post-race inspection penalties,” Andrews said. “There was not a L2-level penalty handed out in 2022 during a pre-race or at that point even a pre-inspection where a part taken and a penalty issued.”

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 22: William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty University Chevrolet, enters his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 22, 2022 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jared East/Getty Images)

Hendrick says that it made the strategic decision to not request a deferral of personnel suspensions since Atlanta is now a drafting track and a superspeedway-style race, where strategy calls from crew chiefs matter less. An appeal date has not yet been set.

For this weekend’s race at Atlanta, Kevin Meendering, Tom Gray, Brian Campe, and Greg Ives will fill in as crew chiefs for the numbers 5, 9, 24, and 48 respectively. Meendering and Ives lead the team’s Xfinity Series division. Gray is the former lead engineer on the No. 9. Campe, Hendrick Motorsports’ technical director, has experience as a Xfinity Series crew chief, but Atlanta will also be his first Cup Series race atop the pit box.

“We are very fortunate at Hendrick Motorsports and the leadership that we have there,” Knaus said. “We’ve got some amazing people that can fill in and help us out for trying times. We are in a really good spot there. We feel like if we can continue down the path of being successful, racing hard and doing whatever it is we need to do for our partners.”

As for the other Chevrolet team to receive a penalty, Kaulig Racing, Knaus says there’s no connection.

“We’re not holding hands right now at this point, but I’m sure there’s going to be communication as we get a little bit further. But to what level, I can’t disclose on that yet.”

Owen Johnson