Chase Elliott’s Chicagoland finish ruled encumbered, crew chief suspended by NASCAR

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Brakes Chevrolet, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 17, 2017 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

NASCAR announced Tuesday that the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has been issued an L1-level penalty after this past weekend’s race at Chicagoland.

During post-race inspection, the No. 24 Chevrolet was discovered to be in violation of Section 20.20 in the NASCAR Rule Book — modification of components to affect the aerodynamic properties of the vehicle.

As a result, Chase Elliott’s second-place finish in the NASCAR Playoffs opener at Chicagoland Speedway was ruled to be encumbered, crew chief Alan Gustafson was fined $25,000 and suspended for one race, car chief Joshua Kirk was suspended for one race and the team was hit with the loss of 15 driver points and 15 owner points.

The loss in driver points dropped Elliott from sixth place to eighth place in the postseason standings, with two events remaining in the three-race Round of 16. Hendrick Motorsports released a statement saying the team will not appeal. Kenny Francis will serve as the interim crew chief, and Kevin Hulstein will be the interim car chief.

Also on Tuesday, the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 team in the Monster Energy Series and the Biagi-DenBeste Racing No. 98 team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series received safety violations for unsecured lug nuts post-race at Chicago.

Crew chief Jason Ratcliff, who oversees the JGR No. 20 for driver Matt Kenseth, was fined $10,000. Crew chief Jonathan Hanson, who called the shots for Darrell Wallace Jr. last Saturday, was fined $5,000.

Hendrick Motorsports issued a statement shortly after the penalty saying they will not appeal the penalty.

Kenny Francis, 47, has been named interim crew chief of the No. 24 NASCAR Cup Series team with driver Chase Elliott for this weekend’s event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Jacksonville, Florida, native, who was Elliott’s crew chief for five points races in 2015, currently serves as Hendrick Motorsports’ vehicle technical director and has 17 wins, 75 top-five finishes and 149 top-10s as a Cup Series crew chief.

Willmar, Minnesota, native Kevin Hulstein will serve as the team’s car chief at New Hampshire. The 38-year-old veteran mechanic joined Hendrick Motorsports in January 2002 and previously was a member of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team under crew chief Francis.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.