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The No. 31 Cup Series team was originally docked 100 driver/owner points, as well as ten playoff points. Additionally, they were fined $100,000 and the crew chief was to serve a four-race suspension.
Kaulig Racing fought the penalties, but they were mostly upheld by a three-person appeals panel on Wednesday. They only reduced the point penalty from 100pts to 75pts.
NASCAR penalized Kaulig due to the unapproved modification of single-source supplied parts, specifically the hood louvers. All four Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) teams were penalized at the same time for the same violation. However, they had all points penalties rescinded by a separate appeals panel just one week ago.
Justin Haley, Kaulig Racing, LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro
Photo by: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images
Kaulig Racing team president Chris Rice made an appearance on FS1’s NASCAR Race Hub to discuss the decision, calling it “disheartening.”
He continued: “You know what goes on in your garage and you know what happens and single-source suppliers and knowing the rules and different things is really tough nowadays … I sit here and I stand behind my guys. I stand behind everybody at Kaulig Racing. We upheld the rules and we did what we know is legal, so it’s been a tough hour or two. I’m not gonna lie to you, but we’ll get through this. We’re a very strong race team. We’re only two years into the Cup Series. That’s what is big about our race team. We don’t give up. We’re not gonna give up on this. So it’s just kind of disheartening.”
He told the show hosts that he had been in contact with HMS throughout this process, specifically Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon and Vice President of Competition Chad Knaus.
An impact beyond points
He also went into detail about how these penalties have affected the young race team and how it goes well beyond the points, which alone has dropped the No. 31 to very nearly the bottom of the championship standings.
He explained: “Everybody talks about the points and all that, but it’s all three things, right? We want to make sure that nobody fools with parts. I get it. I understand that as a president, as somebody running a race team. But I was also a crew chief back in the day. Losing Trent Owens (No. 31 crew chief) for four weeks is pretty tough to us. We’re not that deep. We have three Xfinity cars that I think at any point in time, we could use those guys but we have jobs to do also. We’re not as deep other teams that have been in business for 20 years or 10 years. We doubled our staff this year, so we are deeper than what we were last year.
“But losing Trent Owens is devastating to Justin Haley. They just started clicking last year. We’ve had a rough start to the year, but they’ll start clicking again. Four races missing that guy is gonna be pretty tough, but 100 points to a race team like us where we sit and race somewhere 15th to 20th … we have some good runs every now and then, but it’s pretty devastating also. I think (losing) our crew chief is pretty big, our points are pretty big and you know, the $100,000 fine to a budget. It’s also something that’s pretty tough.”
Rice went on to say that he understands why the penalties are as severe as they are, but again asserted that Kaulig did nothing wrong. He has received nearly 50 text messages from team presidents, crew chiefs and others inside the sport. Some said they found Wednesday’s outcome to be ‘unbelievable.’
He declined to comment on whether the difference in severity for Hendrick versus Kaulig is fair, saying that it’s not his place to decide that.
However, the team is not yet out of options. They may appeal further, and present their case to Final Appeals Officer, Bill Mullis.
Rice would not explicitly say whether they would take that route, but seemed to imply that they would.
“I will make an announcement in the morning at nine o’clock (9 a.m. EST.), but I think you can tell from my feelings and where I’m sitting at, that we’ll probably continue on down the path of trying to fight this.”