Hendrick Motorsports had its L2 penalty amended by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel last week when all four teams received their points back, but Jeff Gordon isn’t completely satisfied.
“I don’t know that we should have ever had the points taken away, to begin with,” Gordon, the vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, said. “But it’s been a good week. It’s been really stressful trying to prep for an appeal and not knowing what the outcome is going to be.
“We’re certainly happy the appeals committee came to that conclusion, but at the same time, we feel like we laid out enough information there that it shouldn’t have ever happened, or even the monetary side of it and the crew chief side of it. We were really hoping we were going to get all of that back.”
The appeals panel rescinded penalty of 10 playoff points and 100 driver and owner points imposed upon William Byron, Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson. The No. 9 team received back its 10 playoff points and 100 owner points. (It was not docked driver points as Chase Elliott is sidelined with a leg injury from a snowboarding accident last month.)
NASCAR had confiscated the hood louvers off the four Hendrick Motorsports cars following practice at Phoenix Raceway. In its penalty report, NASCAR cited that the louvers, a single-sourced supplied part, had unapproved modifications.
Gordon and Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports’ vice president of competition, were adamant that the organization only did what was necessary to make the parts fit, and argued that the teams are held accountable for their race cars, but the vendors are not held to the same standard with their parts, which are not being built correctly.
Although the points were given back, all four Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs are still suspended for four races. However, Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Blake Harris, and Rudy Fugle began serving their suspensions after the penalty was announced and have one week left to serve. The $100,000 fines to each crew chief were also upheld.
Four days after the appeal decision, Larson won at Richmond Raceway. It is the third Hendrick Motorsports win of the season, and Bowman continues to lead the championship point standings – having gotten it back with the reinstated points.
“Once the green flag dropped, it’s all about those teams executing and doing their job,” said Gordon. “But certainly quite a few smiles around campus this day. They’ve been down with what happened and so that definitely re-energized our folks this week and coming into this weekend’s race and certainly, this win will do a lot for us as we move forward and go to Bristol.”
The appeals panel did not give a reason for its decision. NASCAR issued a statement afterward that said it was pleased the panel found Hendrick Motorsports violated the rules but expressed disappointment that the points deductions, which the sanctioning body views as a deterrent, were rescinded.
“I just think we were very transparent from the beginning of why we believed there was a miscommunication and what happened,” Gordon said of the Hendrick Motorsports argument. “I said this in Atlanta – it should have never even come to that. I don’t want to give too much information because I want to respect the process, but it’s also a little frustrating that nothing gets shared from what determines whether there’s points given back or whether there’s money not given back and crew chief suspensions.
“I just feel like there was enough there that it’s not clear-cut. It’s not just a black-and-white situation because there was enough communication to justify why we showed up to the racetrack in Phoenix the way we did.
“I think that had it been handled in a situation more like the wheels at Daytona with RFK and Penske, I think that’s the way it should have been handled. It’s I understand it, there’s a reason why you did this, and there’s also a reason why you need to take them off the car. But it should never to me have elevated up to the level that it did. Clearly, the panel felt very similar to that.”