Hendrick Motorsports has been hit with the largest fine in NASCAR history as its four teams have been penalized for the confiscated hood louvers at Phoenix Raceway.
NASCAR officials found the louvers, a single-source supplied part of the Next Gen car, were modified. The louvers were confiscated at the track and evaluated further this week at the NASCAR R&D Center.
Three of the four teams and drivers have been docked 100 points and 10 playoff points. The No. 9 team was docked playoff points and 100 team points but not docked driver points because Chase Elliott is sidelined with an injury, and Josh Berry is not eligible for Cup Series points.
Additionally, all four Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs have been fined $100,000. Cliff Daniels of Kyle Larson’s No. 5 team, Alan Gustafson of the No. 9 team, Rudy Fugle of William Byron’s No. 24 team, and Blake Harris of Alex Bowman’s No. 48 team have also been suspended for the next four races.
The $400,000 fine total makes it the largest team total in NASCAR history. It surpasses the $300,000 fine issued to Michael Waltrip Racing in 2013 for race manipulation at Richmond Raceway.
“From time to time, we’ll capture parts and bring them back, and as we continued to investigate and look at parts, compare parts, it was obvious to us these parts had been modified in areas that weren’t approved,” NASCAR senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer said. “This is a consistent penalty with what we went through last year with other competitors.
“We felt like to keep the garage on a level playing field, the competition level where it needs to be, all the dialogue that went around this car last year working with the owners on what the deterrent model should be, we were put in a position that we felt there was no other way but to write a penalty.”
Hendrick Motorsports had the louvers taken from their four cars after practice at Phoenix Raceway.
Kaulig Racing was issued the same penalty for the No. 31 team of Justin Haley. The hood louvers from the No. 31 Chevrolet were taken Saturday.
Haley has been docked 100 driver points and the No. 31 docked 100 team points and 10 playoff points. Haley’s crew chief Trent Owens has been suspended for the next four races.
All the penalties are appealable. In a statement, Hendrick Motorsports indicated it would appeal its penalties
Sawyer did not detail what areas were modified. However, he did admit there are approved areas teams and NASCAR work together to ensure pieces fit correctly, but this incident “rose to the level” beyond that.
“We don’t normally get into intent, but I think it’s fair to say there could be performance (advantages) around these modifications,” said Sawyer. “But let’s also give credit where it’s due — they also went out and had an outstanding race on Sunday and performed at a high level without those modifications.”
Byron won the race at Phoenix while Hendrick Motorsports drivers combined for 265 laps led.
Also on the post-Phoenix penalty report was a two-race suspension for crew members of Aric Almirola’s team. Almirola lost a wheel from his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang during the event and will be without crew members Ryan Mulder and Sean Cotton at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Circuit of The Americas.