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All four HMS Cup teams were hit with significant penalties earlier this week from NASCAR for unapproved modifications made to Next Gen car parts which originated from a single-source supplier.
In this case, the hood louvers (vents) were confiscated from the Nos. 5, 9, 24 and 48 Chevrolets following practice at Phoenix Raceway.
The penalties included $100,000 fines for all four crew chiefs and four-race suspensions, loss of 100 driver (except the No. 9 team) and owner points and 10 playoff points for each team.
Kaulig Racing’s No. 31 Chevrolet team also received the same penalty.
Discrepancy in parts?
Chad Knaus, HMS’ vice president of competition, said the louvers were among the newly designed spec parts for the 2023 season but there have been discrepancies in what they thought they would receive and what the teams actually received.
“When we started to get parts at the beginning of the 2023 season, we didn’t have the parts that we thought we were going to have,” Knaus said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“Through a tremendous amount of back-and-forth with NASCAR and the OEM and the teams there’s been conversations about whether we can clean up the parts, not clean up the parts and it’s changed quite honestly every couple weeks.
“It’s been challenging for us to navigate and we’re just going to have to see what happens once we get through the appeal.”
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro
Photo by: Danny Hansen / NKP / Motorsport Images
Knaus said HMS hasn’t decided which “angle” it will focus on in its appeal but a statement released by the organization on Wednesday touched on three areas – louvers provided by the supplier do not match the design submitted by the manufacturer and approved by NASCAR; “inconsistent and unclear communication by the sanctioning body” related to the issue with louvers; and recent comparable penalties issued by NASCAR have arisen from post-race inspection rather than a “voluntary inspection” like in the current instance.
“It’s a terrible situation, not only for us, but for the industry, to be quite honest with you,” Knaus said. “That’s what I dislike the most. It’s ugly. We shouldn’t be in this situation and it’s really unfortunate that we are because it doesn’t help anyone.
“We as a company and everyone in this garage are being held accountable to put their car out there for inspection and perform at the level they need to. Like the teams are being held accountable for doing that.
“Nobody is holding the single-source providers accountable at the level they need to be to give us the parts that we need. Now, that goes through NASCAR’s distribution center and NASCAR’s approval process and we’re not getting the right parts.”
In a Zoom call with reporters this week, Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, acknowledged there have been discussions with teams about allowing modifications that help with the fit of a part.
However, Sawyer was clear that was not the case with the area of the louvers which had been modified. “It was obvious to us these parts had been modified in areas that weren’t approved,” he said.
It also clearly states in the NASCAR rulebook that it is incumbent on teams to bring cars to the race track each which that adhere to the rules.
Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, HMS elected to begin to have all four of its crew chiefs being their four-race suspension this week, which is a big shakeup for any organization.
“You go through the depth chart pretty quick when something like that happens, obviously,” Knaus said. “But we’re very fortunate at Hendrick Motorsports and the leadership that we’ve got there that we’ve got some amazing people that can fill in and help us out in these trying times.
“Tom Gray, tremendous amount of experience, worked closely with the No. 9 team and Alan Gustafson. We’ve got Kevin Meendering who unfortunately had to sit in last year on the No. 5. Greg (Ives), he’s right at home at the No. 48 and Brian Campe is a great fit for the No. 24.
“We’re in a really good spot there. We feel like we can continue down the path of being successful racing hard and do whatever we need to do with our partners.”