Tuesday February 27th, 2024 8:29AM

NASCAR issues largest team fine in history against Hendrick

By Jenna Fryer-AP Auto Racing Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR levied the largest combined fine on one team in series history Wednesday, hammering Hendrick Motorsports for modifying air-deflecting pieces last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

Hendrick was issued a combined $400,000 in fines — $100,000 to each of its four crew chiefs, along with four-race suspensions for the quartet — and docked the drivers 100 regular-season points and 10 playoffs points each. Although NASCAR has issued larger monetary fines and suspensions, the Hendrick penalties are the largest combined punishment for one organization.

NASCAR's winningest team said it would appeal. William Byron has won back-to-back races for Hendrick to give HMS two wins through the first four races of the season, and Alex Bowman was the Cup Series points leader prior to his 100-point deduction.

“On Friday at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR identified louvers on our race cars during a voluntary inspection 35 minutes after the opening of the garage and prior to on-track activity,” Hendrick Motorsports said in a statement. “NASCAR took possession of the parts approximately four hours later with no prior communication. The situation had no bearing on Saturday’s qualifying session or Sunday’s race.”

HMS also said it was “disappointed” with the penalties and would be appealing based on facts that include:

— 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, and

— Recent comparable penalties issued by NASCAR have been related to issues discovered during a post-race inspection

Hendrick said it would not be requesting a deferral of the crew chief suspensions for this Sunday's race at Atlanta as the appeal process begins.

Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley and his team received the same penalty, and NASCAR disagrees with the argument that the parts were not in compliance when received.

“It was obvious to us that these parts had been modified in an area that wasn’t approved,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer said.

NASCAR confiscated the Hendrick teams’ louvers after practice at Phoenix Raceway. The louvers sit atop the radiator ducts and direct air out of the hood and any modifications could impact downforce. The points penalties dropped Bowman from first to 23rd in the Cup standings, Byron from fourth to 29th and Kyle Larson from fifth to 32nd.

Chase Elliott, who did not race at Phoenix because of a broken leg, was not penalized. Because his replacement driver does not receive points in the Cup Series, Josh Berry was also not punished.

NASCAR, meanwhile, also penalized Denny Hamlin 25 points and a $50,000 fine for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on Sunday’s final lap.

WDUN will carry live PRN Radio coverage of the NASCAR race weekend from Atlanta Motor Speedway beginning with Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series Raptor King of Tough 250 at 4:30 pm on 102.9 FM, AM 550 and streaming live on AccessWDUN.  Coverage continues on Sunday with the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at 2 pm on 102.9 FM, AM 550 and streaming live on AccessWDUN.

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