I will start this piece by saying that I am typically not in favor of having an abundance of rules in racing and over regulation. But NASCAR doesn’t care what I think, and in reality, neither should you. That said, however, the recent penalties issued to Hendrick Motorsports and Kaulig Racing were necessary.
Whether you, I or anyone else like or don’t like the number of rules and restrictions instituted by NASCAR regarding the Next Gen car does not matter. There are rules and when those rules are violated there have to be consequences, and sometimes, those consequences must be harsh in order to make a point to not only the offending team but to every other team as well.
During preparations for last week’s NASCAR Cup Series race at the Phoenix Raceway the sanctioning body confiscated the hood louvers from all four Hendrick Motorsports cars(5, 9, 24, 48) and from one of the cars fielded by Kaulig Racing(31). Those teams were cited for unapproved modifications to a part supplied by a single-source vendor.
The teams were allowed to race with the No. 24 Chevrolet driven by William Byron eventually collecting the win. But later in the week, NASCAR delivered the news that each of those teams had been hit with considerable sanctions.
HMS drivers Kyle Larson, William Byron and Alex Bowman along with Kaulig pilot Justin Haley have had 100 points deducted from their totals. Each of their respective teams were also docked 100 owner points. The No. 9 HMS team lost 100 points but since Chase Elliott was not driving that car in Phoenix due to injury, his driver points were not reduced. Should these drivers make the NASCAR Playoffs, they will each lose 10 playoff points as well.
Crew chiefs Cliff Daniels(5), Alan Gustafson(9), Rudy Fugle(24) and Blake Harris(48) from the Hendrick camp and Kaulig pit boss Trent Owens were suspended for four races and fined $100,000 each.
Those penalties are very similar to what was handed down to the No. 6 team from Rough Fenway Keselowski Racing and the No. 34 of Front Row Motorsports last season for improper modifications to a part supplied by a single-source vendor.
Both Hendrick Motorsports and Kaulig Racing have stated their intentions to appeal the penalties issued saying that the parts they receive from the suppliers have been inconsistently manufactured.
The fact is, teams have been given stern warnings about tampering with the pieces and parts used on the Next Gen car and that doing so would result is considerable penalties. It isn’t likely that anyone would disagree that these penalties are in fact considerable. But again, they had to be or else teams would be making their own modifications on a weekly basis.
Anyone who is a parent knows that if you tell a child not to do something but they go ahead and do it anyway and no punishment is issued, the likelihood of that action happening again is very high. That’s just human nature and NASCAR crew members are human.
Racers are always searching for a competitive edge, and often times, those advantages are found in the so-called ‘gray area’. NASCAR has made it very clear to Cup Series teams that there is little to no gray area with this car.
While some, including myself, might argue that such strict regulations stifle the very creativity that racing has been long known for, it doesn’t matter. If that’s the rule, it’s the rule and teams can’t be allowed to get away with modifications or else there might as well be no rules.
This might all be overturned by the appeal process as those teams may be able to prove that the problem was with the inconsistency of the parts. If that proves to be the case, then NASCAR has a problem with its vendors. But for now, the sanctioning body has done what it had to do with the offending teams.
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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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