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Hendrick issued largest combined fine in NASCAR history, docked points

NASCAR hammered Hendrick Motorsports for modifying air deflecting pieces by docking all of its Phoenix drivers and teams 100 regular-season points and 10 playoff points and suspending each of their crew chiefs for four races each and fining the crew chiefs $100,000.

It is the biggest combined fine to one organization in NASCAR history. NASCAR has issued bigger fines for individual violations but a $400,000 combined fine to one organization is the largest.

Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley and his team received the same penalty.

“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 Power Rankings: William Byron makes a leap after second straight win]

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

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.

Sawyer would not go into specifics on what was modified.

With the penalties, Alex Bowman drops from first to 23rd in the standings; William Byron from fourth to 29th; Kyle Larson from fifth to 32nd.

Chase Elliott, who did not compete at Phoenix because of a broken leg, isn’t penalized and actually moved up from 29th to 26th. His replacement, Josh Berry, doesn’t earn points in the Cup Series (he earns points in the Xfinity Series), but the Hendrick No. 9 team (as well as the other Hendrick teams) were docked 100 in the owner standings.

The loss of 10 playoff points could hurt during NASCAR’s 10-race playoffs. At the start of each of the first three rounds, playoff drivers’ points are reset to the same amount and then their playoff points get added. A driver gets one playoff point for winning a stage, five playoff points for winning a race, and earns playoff points for regular-season finish in the standings on a 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale — where the regular-season points penalty could have a big impact.

In the three-race playoff rounds, the four playoff drivers who are winless in the round and have the fewest points are eliminated. So the playoff points often help a driver advance to the next round.

There have been issues with the new hoods and louver designs when it comes to the manufacturing of the louvers and how they fit and meet specs. But the louvers, designed by Dallara, are not supposed to be modified in any way — teams were told what they could do to make them fit but beyond that, they can’t modify them.

Larson on Byron’s win

Kyle Larson said William Byron just executed well on the final restart to capture the win in Phoenix.

NASCAR’s Next Gen car, introduced last year, is mostly assembled by teams from single-source suppliers for parts and pieces. Because of that, NASCAR had told teams starting last year that they would face significant penalties for modifying those parts. It issued three similar penalties last year.

NASCAR checked the louvers of all teams in the garage at Phoenix and confiscated those of Hendrick.

“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,” Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon said Sunday after Byron won Phoenix.

“I think it really opened up the door for some miscommunication. I don’t want to go any further than that.”

With louvers obtained from other Chevrolet teams, Larson won the pole and Byron won the race, where all Hendrick drivers finished in the top 10. It was Byron’s second consecutive win.

“That really solidified some of the hype and things that were being focused on Friday [when the pieces were taken],” Gordon said. “These guys have speed in the car.

“There was nothing, not last week, not this week, that was getting them to victory lane other than a lot of hard work and great teamwork.”

NASCAR also opted to discipline Hamlin for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on the final lap at Phoenix — Hamlin ended up 23rd; Chastain 24th.

Hamlin admitted on his podcast, “Actions Detrimental,” that his car was not handling well in the overtime at Phoenix. A feud with Chastain has lasted nearly a year, and Hamlin said when he saw Chastain beside him and knowing he was going to lose spots because of the way his car handled, he opted to let the right-side of his car slide into Chastain’s left side.

“I’m about to finish in the mid-teens and I said, ‘You’re coming with me, buddy,'” Hamlin said on his podcast. “It wasn’t a mistake. I let the wheel go and I said, ‘He’s coming with me.'”

Hamlin called himself a “dumba—” for losing about 15 spots with the move.

“I don’t want to involve any other cars. … I saw we were the only people up top so I said, ‘I’m going to send him in the fence and door him,'” Hamlin said.

Last year, NASCAR penalized Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for intentionally running into Hamlin under caution, which resulted in a Hamlin spin, during a playoff race at Texas. Under appeal, the points penalty was rescinded but the fine was increased to $100,000.

After that appeal decision, NASCAR changed wording in its penalty options for intentionally wrecking another vehicle. It used to read “could result in a loss of 25-50 driver and team owner points and/or $50,000-$100,000 fine” and NASCAR took out the “and/or” and replaced it with “and” so there was no ability to the appeals panel to do one or the other.

Hamlin would have avoided a penalty if he didn’t say it was intentional. Sawyer said NASCAR had to get involved once he said it was intentional.

‘You’re coming with me buddy’

Denny Hamlin discusses his incident with Ross Chastain in Phoenix on his podcast “Actions Detrimental.”

“I’m not going to sit here on this podcast and ever lie to you guys and say, ‘Well this is an accident’ when it’s not,” Hamlin said on the podcast. “It wasn’t an accident. I meant to put him in the fence. But I didn’t mean to screw my team in the process.”

Chastain and Hamlin had a long conversation after the race. It appeared relatively civil.

“The mother—— is hard to spin,” Hamlin said on the podcast. “When he knows it’s coming, he’s the hardest guy to wreck on the planet.

“I wanted to get back to racing, honestly, with him, and I think that is a lot of the conversation we had afterwards. … We need to just race each other with better respect from this point forward. And that’s what I hope to get out of this. He asked for a truce. I asked for a truce. And let’s just see how it goes from here.”

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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