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With the introduction of the Next Gen car in the 2022 season, NASCAR updated its penalty system to include much harsher consequences for violations, including the revoking of playoff eligibility, in particular with respect to modifying parts from single source suppliers.
Much of the construction of the new model car revolves around single source supplied parts, greatly reducing or eliminating the need of individual teams to spend money developing and producing their own.
Just four races into the 2023 season, however, NASCAR levied hefty penalties to five Cup teams on Wednesday – all four Hendrick Motorsports teams and one from Kaulig Racing – for unapproved modifications to their cars’ hood louvers (vents).
Several teams were penalized last season for modification of single source supplier parts and Joe Gibbs Racing had a pair of cars disqualified from Pocono for having additional tape on the nose of the cars of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
Asked if NASCAR were surprised it was still dealing with this issue a year later, Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition said, “I don’t know if the word is surprised, maybe I’ll use disappointed.
“We’ve made it very clear since the very start of this project with the Next Gen car, working with the garage and the owners on what the determent model needs to be and it’s NASCAR’s responsibility to make sure we uphold that.
“We will continue to do what we need to do to this car in check. It’s for the betterment of our sport, for the business model and that’s our responsibility to continue to do that.”
It was ‘obvious’
Sawyer said NASCAR does allow teams on occasion to modify a single sourced part to assist in it fitting properly on the car but said that was not the case in this instance.
“It was obvious to us these parts had been modified in areas that weren’t approved,” he said. “This is a consistent penalty with what we went through last year with other competitors.
“We felt like to keep the garage on a level playing field, the competition level where it needs to be, all the dialogue that went around this car last year working with the owners on what the deterrent model should be, we were put in a position that we felt there was no other way but to write a penalty.”
Hendrick pushing back
Wednesday afternoon, Hendrick Motorsports issued a statement in which it said it would appeal the penalties but would not defer the four-race suspensions assessed to each of its teams’ crew chiefs. It has yet to announce replacements.
HMS said it would base its appeal on the following:
· “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.
· Recent comparable penalties issued by NASCAR have been related to issues discovered during a post-race inspection.”
Entering this weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, HMS driver William Byron has won two of the first four races of the season and he and teammate Kyle Larson have led a combined 510 laps.