Appeals panel rescinds penalty against three Hendrick drivers; Suarez fined
Published 6:26 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023
CHARLOTTE (AP) — A NASCAR appeals panel rescinded the hefty points penalties levied against Hendrick Motorsports drivers Alex Bowman, William Byron and Kyle Larson for an illegally modified part on their Chevrolets discovered earlier this month.
It was only a partial victory for Hendrick Motorsports, though: although the three-person panel restored 100 points to each of the three drivers following Wednesday’s hearing, it upheld fines and suspensions for four Hendrick crew chiefs.
NASCAR initially hammered Hendrick Motorsports with the largest combined penalties for a single organization in series history. HMS was docked 100 regular-season points and 10 playoffs for the three driver for modifying air-deflecting pieces at Phoenix Raceway earlier this month.
Hendrick was issued a combined $400,000 in fines — $100,000 to each of its four crew chiefs, along with four-race suspensions for the quartet. Although NASCAR has issued larger monetary fines and suspensions, the Hendrick penalties were the largest combined punishment for one organization.
With the restoral of the points, Bowman moves to the top spot in the Cup Series standings. Byron is now third and Larson is ninth. Chase Elliott is out with a broken leg and his replacement driver, Josh Berry, was not penalized because he’s not racing for Cup points.
“We are grateful to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel for their time and attention,” team owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. “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 (Raceway).”
NASCAR expressed disappointment in part of the panel’s decision.
“We are pleased that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel agreed that Hendrick Motorsports violated the rule book,” the sanctioning body 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.”
The appeals panel consisted of former driver Bill Lester, truck/trailer retailer Kelly Housby and former racing marketing executive Dixon Johnston.
HMS appealed on the basis of:
— Louvers provided to teams through NASCAR’s mandated single-source supplier do not match the design submitted by the manufacturer and approved by NASCAR;
— Documented inconsistent and unclear communication by the sanctioning body specifically related to louvers;
— And recent comparable penalties issued by NASCAR have been related to issues discovered during a post-race inspection.
NASCAR confiscated the Hendrick teams’ louvers after practice at Phoenix Raceway on March 10. The louvers sit atop the radiator ducts and direct air out of the hood. Any modifications could impact downforce. The points penalties dropped Bowman from first to 23rd in the Cup standings, Byron from fourth to 29th and Larson from fifth to 32nd.
Suarez fined $50,000 by NASCAR for hitting cars on pit road
NASCAR fined Daniel Suarez $50,000 on Wednesday for hitting another vehicle on pit road following the race at Circuit of the Americas.
The fine was classified as a behavioral penalty and cited “contact with another vehicle on pit road after the race.”
Suarez hit both his Trackhouse Racing teammate Ross Chastain from behind and then Alex Bowman as the cars returned to pit road following Sunday’s race on the road course. He spoke with Bowman on pit road after, and leaned into Chastain’s car to speak to his teammate through the window.
“He just thought I drove in and tried to drive through him,” Bowman said. “Daniel and I, we’ve been teammates in the past, raced together a long time. I respect the hell out of him. I’m sure he’s still not super happy. Just tried to explain that I wouldn’t race him like that, that I was shoved in there.”
Suarez finished 27th in a race that went to triple overtime with 10 cautions in the final 17 laps. The race went seven laps past the scheduled distance.
The penalty could be considered light in that Suarez avoided a points reduction. NASCAR last year fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for hitting another car on pit road. The penalties are typically intense because of the safety concerns with team personnel and NASCAR officials located on pit road.
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