Hendrick to appeal penalty but not one for crew chiefs, details

NASCAR made a statement on Wednesday. Don’t mess with stock parts. They’re disappointed that we’re even discussing this right now. While not surprised, they felt like they talked enough and penalized enough last year to make teams defer stepping outside the lines.

“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,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition said.

“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.”

Hendrick Motorsports was handed the largest penalty to ever grace NASCAR. $400k in fines and each time penalized 100 points, 10 playoff points and all four crew chiefs suspended four weeks.

HMS isn’t taking this lightly. They feel this was a big miscommunication and that NASCAR had it out for them. Hence they’ll appeal part of this.

“I can tell you it was weighing on all of our minds coming into today,” Jeff Gordon admitted on Sunday evening. “Certainly will continue.”

Gordon said then that they’ve talked to NASCAR and will continue to do so moving forward too. He says this whole situation could have been a misunderstanding.

“Every situation is sort of unique, but this is a more unique one than I’ve seen in a while where there’s been a lot of communication back and forth on this particular part, especially for this racetrack because they did a parity test in the wind tunnel,” he continued.

“I think it really opened up the door for some miscommunication. I don’t want to go any further than that. We’ll continue to just share all the facts and be transparent with NASCAR as we have been so far.”

Their appeals are:

· 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.

They say they weren’t aware prior to practice on Friday in Phoenix that this would be done. However, NASCAR says that this was too obvious not to act in the manner that they had to do so in.

“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.”

HMS won’t appeal the crew chief suspensions however. That’s a wise move in fact.

It was best for them not to on this angle because, why risk the appeal taking a week or two and for the 9 cars sake, you at least can sit Gustafson out while Elliott is out and not having Elliott coming back with Gustafson still on the sidelines serving his suspension.

Plus, the four upcoming tracks are less dangerous to miss than the ones after them Atlanta is less about strategy and handling, COTA is a road course, Richmond will be a big miss but Bristol Dirt won’t. If you would have appealed this, you could get getting into the Martinsville, Talladega, Dover, Kansas and Darlington mix. 4 of those 5 are playoff tracks for which you need your crew chief on site at these spring races to help with strategy calls as well as data for the return trip.

“We work together really well,” Rudy Fugle said of the four crew chiefs communicating during the race. “Cliff (Daniels, Kyle Larson’s crew chief) and I were chatting about what strategy we were going to do. Open in the chat multiple times if we were going to take four or two, how we were going to do it. Even racing against each other, fully working together. We work together great, all four crew chiefs, all four teams.

“But, yeah, we prepare the cars. We look at each other’s cars all week long, make adjustments. Each driver is a little bit different. So last 15, 20% is different.”

Fugle also noted that if one car is struggling within the camp but another is doing well, they’ll internally work on helping each other out to bring the other one back up to par.

“Definitely,” Fugle continued. “We made a lot of changes their direction (Larson’s car) after Friday practice. Saturday morning came in and changed geometry and other things, too, to chase the 5, because they were a little bit better than us, yes.”

With all four crew chiefs are out, that could be a massive loss at the track too in regards to communication but not as big for these four races than otherwise if they had appealed and waited.

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