Listen to this article
On March 15, NASCAR issued penalties to five Cup teams – all four Hendrick Motorsports teams and the No. 31 team from Kaulig Racing – for the unapproved modification of hood louvers (vents) which are single-source parts.
All points penalties against Hendrick were rescinded on appeal, but a different three-person panel mostly upheld the penalties against Kaulig. The original 100-point penalty was merely reduced to 75 points on April 5.
Team president Chris Rice spoke out against the decision and called the penalties ‘devastating’ to the small organization.
Now, Final Appeals Officer Bill Mullis has rescinded the remaining 75-point penalty, as well as the loss of ten playoff points.
At NASCAR’s request
In an interesting development, this decision came at the request of NASCAR who asked for the points penalties to be erased “in the interest of treating all competitors fairly.” Obviously, this is in response to the HMS decision.
Full statement: “NASCAR believes that Kaulig Racing committed the violations documented in the penalty notice, that the penalties were appropriate and that the three-person appeals panel ruled correctly when hearing the Kaulig appeal on April 5. However, in the interest of treating all competitors fairly, NASCAR today requested that the Final Appeals Officer remove the race and playoff points from the penalty. The Kaulig and Hendrick Motorsports violations involved the same modified part found during the same race weekend (modified louver at Phoenix Raceway), and with fairness and consistency top of mind, NASCAR requested that the FAO match the final Hendrick Motorsports penalty. NASCAR believes that the updates made to the Rule Book will address similar issues in the future and keep its promise to the owners for strict penalties when single-source parts are modified. We are pleased with the swift resolution to today’s appeal, appreciate Bill Mullis’ ruling and now look forward to this weekend’s events at Talladega Superspeedway.”
The final ruling:
1. That the Appellant violated the Rule(s) set forth in the Penalty Notice.
2. That the FAO amends the original Penalty assessed by NASCAR to read:
I. $100,000 fine and 4 race suspension for (crew chief) Trent Owens
II. No loss of NASCAR Cup Championship Team Owner and Driver points or Playoff points
The statement released by the Final Appeals Officer Mullis echos the one made by NASCAR:
“In the interest of fairness, NASCAR has requested that I remove the driver/owner race and playoff points from the penalty to Kaulig Racing. I have agreed to this request, per the Rule Book. During its opening remarks, NASCAR stated it believes that the violations did occur, the penalties were appropriate and the three-person appeals panel ruled correctly. But, because the Kaulig infraction closely mirrored that of Hendrick Motorsports (modified louver at Phoenix Raceway), NASCAR requested I rule in the same manner as the three-person appeals panel following the Hendrick Motorsports appeal on March 29. The information I heard in the room this morning created an overwhelming and unique circumstance. In fairness to the team and sanctioning body, as NASCAR documented in its remarks, this request is fully in the interest of fairness and consistency, and I agree.”
The restored points takes driver Justin Haley from 32nd to 25th in the championship standings. He only had 70 points after nine races, so the points total for he and the No. 31 team more than doubled after this ruling.
Kaulig Racing team statement: “Kaulig Racing is pleased with the ruling of the Final Appeals Officer to amend the original L2 penalty issued by NASCAR following the confiscation of a louver at Phoenix Raceway. Regarding these unique circumstances, it means the world to us as an organization that the sanctioning body is working hard to ensure fairness and consistency across the board within our sport. We are focused ahead on Talladega and look forward to getting our season back on track with Justin Haley.”