Hendrick Motorsports wins small victory in Phoenix appeal

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 12: William Byron, driver of the #24 Valvoline Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 12, 2023 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Hendrick Motorsports scored a partial victory in Wednesday’s appeal hearing. The team appealed the penalties all four of their teams received after the race at Phoenix earlier in March.

During an inspection on the Friday prior to Sunday’s race, NASCAR found the hood louvers on each of the team’s cars had been modified. They allowed the teams to practice, but then seized the parts for later study. When the penalties were announced, all 4 Hendrick crew chiefs were fined $100,000 and suspended for four races, and each team was also penalized with the loss of 100 points and 10 playoff points.

The team presented their appeal Wednesday to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel.

The panel ruled Wednesday afternoon to amend the L2-level penalties issued to Hendrick Motorsports for unapproved parts modifications entering the March 12 weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

The decision upholds the fines of $100,000 issued to the Nos. 5, 9, 24 and 48 NASCAR Cup Series teams, respectively, as well as the four-race suspensions handed down to the four crew chiefs. However, each team is restored 100 owners points and 10 playoff points. Kyle Larson, William Byron and Alex Bowman receive the same points back from the initial reduction. NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Josh Berry drove the No. 9 Chevrolet at Phoenix in place of the injured Chase Elliott and was not penalized as he does not compete for Cup points.

“We are pleased that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel agreed that Hendrick Motorsports violated the rule book,” NASCAR said in a statement. “However, we are disappointed that the entirety of the penalty was not upheld. A points penalty is a strong deterrent that is necessary to govern the garage following rule book violations, and we believe that it was an important part of the penalty in this case and moving forward. We will continue to inspect and officiate the NASCAR garage at the highest level of scrutiny to ensure a fair and level playing field for our fans and the entire garage.”

No. 5 crew chief Cliff Daniels, the No. 9’s Alan Gustafson, the No. 24’s Rudy Fugle and the No. 48’s Blake Harris are eligible to return to their respective pit boxes for Martinsville Speedway weekend. While the organization chose to appeal the penalties, the team elected to keep its four crew chiefs sidelined for the Cup events at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Circuit of The Americas.

“We are grateful to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel for their time and attention,” the team said in a press release. “Today’s outcome reflects the facts, and we’re pleased the panel did the right thing by overturning the points penalty. It validated our concerns regarding unclear communication and other issues we raised. We look forward to focusing on the rest of our season, beginning with this weekend’s race at Richmond.”

NASCAR took the hood louvers from all four Hendrick cars back to the R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, for further examination. Hendrick replaced the louvers after practice and all four cars passed technical inspection before Byron won the Cup race at Phoenix.

In the initial penalty report, the following sections of the 2023 NASCAR Rule Book were cited: Section 6.1 Time/Manner/Location; 14.1.C,D&Q Overall Assembled Vehicle Rules; Radiator Duct. The penalties issued were the loss of 100 championship owner points and 10 playoff points to the Nos. 5, 9, 24 and 48; the loss of 100 championship driver points and 10 Playoff points to Larson, Byron and Bowman; and a $100,000 fine and four-race suspension to Daniels, Fugle, Harris and Gustafson.

The Appeals Panel members for this hearing were Kelly Housby, Dixon Johnston, and Bill Lester.

The Panel said the appellants have the right to appeal the decision of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer in accordance with the NASCAR Rule Book.


Greg Engle