Hendrick Motorsports received a massive gift on Wednesday by winning part of their appeal against NASCAR. It was the part they needed back the most. The Appeals Panel gave HMS their points back, playoff and regular season points, but kept the $100,000 fine and four-race suspension to each Hendrick crew chief.
“We are grateful to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel for their time and attention,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “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).”
Now, they don’t have to worry about that.
Their appeals were:
· 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.
This could have been a massive blow to HMS’ championship chances. A 100-point penalty was huge. So was the loss of 10 playoff points. It would have essentially forced all four drivers to have to win a race again in order to advance to the postseason.
We saw 15 different winners in last year’s regular season which left a driver in the top 5 of the overall points on the outside looking in. A points penalty of this magnitude would have made it all but impossible for all four HMS cars to points their ways into the playoffs.
We’ve also seen advancing out of a round in the playoffs come down to the smallest of margins too. When you get that many playoff points taken away, this could have put HMS in a massive hole for which they would realistically have to go on a terror this postseason in order to make the Championship 4.
See, you take your playoff points with you each round. In HMS’ sake, they’d be coming from behind each round and arguably being forced to win if the points weren’t given back.
If you also take a step back and look at the points, it was going to be very hard to finish in the top 10 in points for the regular season too, which would have also shut them out of the bonus points there.
Bowman went from 16th in points to a 15-point lead after getting all those points back. Byron goes from 22nd to third. He also gets his 10 playoff points back for his wins at Las Vegas and Phoenix. Larson goes from 27th to ninth.
That’s why the points are a massive gain to get back. The monetary fine is something HMS could easily pay for and essentially are paying for to keep their points.
In regards to the crew chiefs, that also isn’t much of a loss. They’ve already missed two weeks, so what’s two more?
Just look at the four tracks they missed. Atlanta (superspeedway), COTA (road course), Richmond (non playoff track) and Bristol Dirt.
Where there’s a winner, there’s always a loser too and for NASCAR, this is a massive loss.
NASCAR stated its displeasure with part of the penalty being rescinded.
“We are pleased that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel agreed that Hendrick Motorsports violated the rule book. 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.”
The Appeals Panel did not give a reason for its decision.
This was the fourth overturned penalty that NASCAR lost just in the last year.
NASCAR made a statement by this penalty and they lost it. That message was don’t mess with stock parts. They were very disappointed that we were even discussing this still. 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 a few weeks ago.
“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.”
HMS maintained that the parts in question didn’t help performance. Still, this now opens up pandora’s box and I think teams will start finding gray areas with these parts to work in. That’s why this was a huge setback for NASCAR.
Teams now know they can have a great shot or winning their appeal.