The appeals panel has made a final decision regarding the L2-Level penalties issued to Hendrick Motorsports for the modification of a single-source part (hood louvers). It has made amends that will benefit the four NASCAR Cup Series drivers on the HMS roster.
According to a press release, the appeals panel — Mr. Bill Lester, Mr. Dixon Johnston, and Mr. Kelly Housby — determined that Hendrick Motorsports violated Section 6.1 Time/Manner/Location; 14.1.C,D&Q Overall Assembled Vehicle Rules; 184.108.40.206.A Radiator Duct. As a result, the panel upheld the $100,000 fines and four-race suspensions issued to crew chiefs Rudy Fugle, Alan Gustafson, Cliff Daniels, and Blake Harris.
The fines and suspensions remain, but the appeals panel made a major change. It rescinded the 100 driver and 100 owner point penalties issued to Alex Bowman, William Byron, and Kyle Larson. The panel also removed the 100 owner point penalty from the No. 9 team of Chase Elliott and the 10 playoff point penalties for all four teams.
“We are pleased that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel agreed that Hendrick Motorsports violated the rule book,” NASCAR 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.”
This Decision Majorly Changes the Points Standings
Prior to NASCAR issuing the L2-Level penalties to the four Hendrick Motorsports teams, Bowman was atop the points standings. He had top-10 finishes in four straight races, and he one of the most consistent drivers in the Cup Series.
The loss of 100 driver points dropped Bowman from first in the standings down to 23rd. Though he moved up to 16th after races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Circuit of the Americas. Now he returns to the top of the standings.
Larson and Byron also make major moves after the panel rescinded the points penalties. The driver of the No. 24 was outside of the top 20 in points after the penalty, but he is now third overall. Larson moves back up to ninth.
The regular-season points are crucial for these drivers, but getting 10 playoff points back could be more significant in the long run. These points help offset struggles during the playoff rounds, and they can often make up for a DNF.
“We are grateful to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel for their time and attention,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “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).”
There Is Now Precedent for Another Appeal
The appeals panel made a major decision regarding the L2-Level penalties issued to Hendrick Motorsports. Now there is another team that will be under the spotlight as it makes its own appeal.
The No. 31 team of Kaulig Racing also received an L2-Level penalty after the trip to Phoenix Raceway. NASCAR officials confiscated one hood louver from Justin Haley’s team and determined that the team had made an illegal modification to the single-source supplied part.
Kaulig Racing’s appeal will take place on Wednesday, April 5. The team will try to get back the 100 driver points, 100 owner points, and 10 playoff points. This is possible based on the outcome of the Hendrick Motorsports appeal. Though it now appears that the panel will likely uphold the fine and suspension handed out to crew chief Trent Owens.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Kaulig Racing will win its appeal. There are multiple members of the panel, so the Cup Series team could have a different group than the one that heard the Hendrick Motorsports appeal.