Why NASCAR took a robust stance on Hendrick, Hamlin actions

NASCAR doesn’t all the time penalize groups after it confiscates items on the racetrack.

Last 12 months, when Penske and RFK had their wheels taken, the groups argued they made modifications for security causes that they felt have been permissible. NASCAR finally agreed, or no less than noticed sufficient of a reasoning that it didn’t penalize the groups as these modifications have been quickly going to be authorized.

So perhaps that gave Hendrick Motorsports groups and followers a bit of false hope that there could possibly be some wiggle room after NASCAR confiscated their louvers following follow Friday at Phoenix.

Louvers are provided to every workforce by a provider. They are totally different for every producer, however the function is identical — they sit atop the radiator exit ducts to direct air out of the hood vents. They seem like shutters however the entire panels are linked to at least one body.

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Teams have had points with the louvers becoming with the brand new hoods and had been speaking with NASCAR about what could possibly be tweaked to ensure they match.

But even with these discussions, with Hendrick having received the earlier week — after which successful once more Sunday at Phoenix — NASCAR would have misplaced loads of credibility within the storage if it didn’t penalize Hendrick if it felt the louvers have been modified.

That’s one cause why NASCAR hammered the Hendrick groups, in addition to that of Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley for a similar situation, with four-race suspensions to the crew chiefs, a $100,000 fantastic to every crew chief (usually paid by the groups), and 100-point penalties to the drivers and groups.

There are different causes — it appears NASCAR officers have been indignant with Hendrick over the weekend. NASCAR executives had promised harsh penalties for messing with elements provided by single-sourced distributors. The entire idea of this automotive is to scale back prices by not having groups develop and create items — all of them get them from the identical provider.

NASCAR not often talks after issuing penalties, and the actual fact it put Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer on a Zoom name Wednesday afternoon with media confirmed it needed to present no less than some facet of its story as a result of it probably didn’t need Hendrick to manage the narrative.

Discussing Hendrick automotive modifiers

Discussing Hendrick car modifiers

NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer stated it was apparent that Hendrick automobiles had louvers modified in areas that weren’t authorised.

Sawyer wouldn’t be particular to the realm that was modified.

“The area they weren’t supposed to work in is the best I can tell you,” Sawyer stated in regards to the space that was modified. “There’s areas that have been approved. And we’ve worked with the teams on the parts on their fitment and things of that nature.

“This one rose to a degree that was approach past that.”

Here’s the narrative of choose quotes from the Sawyer zoom:

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–”It was apparent to us that these elements had been modified in an space that wasn’t authorised. This is a constant penalty with what we went by final 12 months with different opponents. … We have been put ready that we didn’t really feel like there was no different approach however to write down a penalty.”

–”There is parts we’ve got authorised working instantly with the business and the storage and a course of to do this. This space was not authorised. We felt just like the communication line between NASCAR and the storage was executed correctly. And clearly, they have been outdoors the boundaries.”

–”We do not usually get into the intent. But I believe it is honest to say that there could possibly be [aerodynamic] efficiency round these modifications. Let’s additionally give credit score the place credit score’s due — they went out and nonetheless had an excellent race on Sunday and carried out at a excessive degree with out these modifications.”

And here’s the narrative from a statement from Hendrick Motorsports, which is appealing the penalty:

–”Louvers supplied to groups by NASCAR’s mandated single-source provider don’t match the design submitted by the producer and authorised by NASCAR.”

–”Documented inconsistent and unclear communication by the sanctioning physique particularly associated to louvers.”

–”Recent comparable penalties issued by NASCAR have been associated to points found throughout a post-race inspection.”

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? That’s for an appeals board to decide. NASCAR’s appeals administrator chooses three people from a list of appeals panelists to hear the appeal.

The appeals board did change some penalties last year (which typically is a rare occurrence) as it tried to be fair and set some parameters for NASCAR’s new Next Gen car. No appeal date has been set.

The Hendrick penalties weren’t the only controversial ones issued Wednesday.

Denny Hamlin received a 25-point penalty (his team was not penalized in the owner points) and a $50,000 fine for wrecking Ross Chastain in the final laps. It cost them about 15-16 spots apiece.

NASCAR docked Hamlin underneath the foundations of:

“Attempting to govern the end result of the Race or championship” and “Wrecking or spinning one other automobile, whether or not or not that automobile is faraway from Competition consequently.”

Hamlin-Chastain feud

Hamlin-Chastain feud

Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain make contact on the ultimate Phoenix restart. Here’s a better have a look at what occurred.

Hamlin and Chastain have had a yearlong feud. At the time, Hamlin knew his automotive was not dealing with nicely and because it slid on the observe, Hamlin decided:

“I’m about to finish in the mid-teens and I said, ‘You’re coming with me, buddy,’” Hamlin stated on his “Actions Detrimental” podcast Monday. “It wasn’t a mistake. I let the wheel go and I said, ‘He’s coming with me.’”

Sawyer stated that NASCAR would have considered that as a racing incident if Hamlin had not admitted to wrecking Chastain.

“We would have viewed that as a racing incident,” Sawyer stated. “But then 24 hours later, you have a competitor that has gone on a podcast — which I will say we’re delighted that Denny has a podcast; we think that’s great interaction with the fans — but when you start admitting that you have intentionally done something that would compromise the results of the end of the race, then that rises to the level that we’re going to get involved.

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“There’s no different approach to have a look at that. We have been going to get entangled in these conditions.”

Ironically, NASCAR truly took out the phrase “deliberately” as part of the rule on “wrecking or spinning one other automobile.” It did that because a team could argue that while contact was intentional, the wrecking or spinning was not.

“You have a look at our athletes on the highest degree of motorsports in North America and sending the message that it is OK to inform anyone that, ‘I’m going to wreck you’ after which do this — that is not the message that we should be sending to anyone,” Sawyer stated.

“We do not should be sending that to younger drivers which are beginning out in decrease ranges and aspire to be on the NASCAR Cup degree in some time period. That’s not the message that we should be sending.”

Hamlin received’t enchantment.

The wording of the rule certainly leaves it up to some judgment. Drivers have contact all the time and in the natural battle of racing, the bump-and-run is a known move. What happens when a car gets bumped varies with each incident.

By penalizing Hamlin, NASCAR potentially could open itself up to criticism any time cars have contact. But NASCAR also knows that if it allows a driver to say he did something intentionally, that could mean others would try to use the same argument when done in a more egregious or non-safe action.

Hamlin obviously wouldn’t have said anything he thought would get him fined (even if his podcast is named “Actions Detrimental,” the wording NASCAR uses in penalty reports for actions it feels poorly reflect on the sport). He had to figure this was more of a “boys have at it” instance where NASCAR will allow some contact.

Corey LaJoie, who also has a podcast, said Hamlin will learn what he can say and what he can’t.

“There’s loads of hot-button matters that he has to form of speak his approach round,” LaJoie stated about Hamlin’s function as a playoff driver and workforce co-owner.

“I’m glad I’m not in that place that he’s. … He caught his foot in his mouth this week, however he’s an enormous boy. He’s going to determine it out.”

What To Watch For

Ross Chastain was involved in incidents in each of the Atlanta races last year — and still finished second in both. He combined to lead 74 laps in those two races. He will find his way near the front on Sunday at Atlanta.

Obviously, from above, watch if Chastain and Denny Hamlin are near each other. Chastain and Hamlin had one of their 2022 incidents at Atlanta.

But with the superspeedway nature of the racing, look for drivers such as Corey LaJoie to be in the mix. LaJoie was leading the race in the waning laps last year before Chase Elliott was able to snag the lead and throw a block that resulted with LaJoie in the fence.

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Michael McDowell has had solid runs lately and is a good racer on these tracks. The Kaulig cars haven’t had great runs but AJ Allmendinger and Justin Haley have a history of working well together.

It all could come down to pit road as NASCAR has moved the pit-road commitment line to Turn 3. It will be new for drivers if they are coming down under green. And whether it’s green or under yellow, they’ll have to make sure they don’t speed while on the apron between Turns 3-4.

Thinking Out Loud

Does consistency matter relating to guidelines from race to race?


It is natural that different sizes and styles of tracks will have different rules. But the more rules that can be the same, the better.

So NASCAR adding the choose rule to road courses is a good thing. The choose rule sets an area where drivers must choose a lane for the restart. A driver sometimes can move up a few rows than where the driver would have naturally started if the drivers in front choose the preferred lane.

Typically, it is done right after the start-finish line and race control and spotters have a good view. But on road courses, drivers don’t get the “1 lap to go till inexperienced” notification until they are actually less than one lap to go (that saves time since a road course often is two or more miles in length).

So NASCAR will need to have a camera set up so race control can officiate the choose area. And teams will need to assign spotters for that area who likely don’t spot on a regular basis in order to let the drivers know what lanes drivers are choosing in front of them. 

And it will be rare for a driver to give up track position for a preferred lane because a road course, naturally with turns, doesn’t have a preferred groove.

But it just is simpler for fans to have as many of the same rules every week as possible. So this change, which now means all races have the choose rule, is a good one.

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They Said It

“I’m not going to sit down right here on this podcast and ever misinform you guys and say, ‘Well this is an accident’ when it’s not. It wasn’t an accident. I meant to place him within the fence.” —Denny Hamlin addressing his intentional collision with Ross Chastain

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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