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Why Did NASCAR Confiscate Hood Louvers From Kyle Larson, Other Hendrick Motorsport Drivers?
NASCAR competition officials took hold of hood louvers from all four Chevrolets before Sunday’s race in Phoenix, but have yet to issue a ruling about possible infractions.
Going into the United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, things were already tenuous for Hendrick Motorsports as the stock car racing juggernaut did its best to prepare for the event, knowing golden boy Chase Elliott would still be sidelined as he continues to recover from a snowboarding accident. For the team, ensuring Elliott’s fill-in replacement, Xfinity Series regular Jordan Berry, was ready to pilot the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro had to have been the focal point. They didn’t need to hit a home run, but they did need to run a solid race and not give away any ground. What they received instead was curve ball no one saw coming.
During NASCAR’s routine inspection Friday, league officials discovered that all four Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaros – the No. 9 with Berry, the No. 5 with Kyle Larson, the No. 48 with Alex Bowman and the No. 24 with William Byron – possessed hood louvers that may run afoul dof the league's guidelines, according to NASCAR.com.
Though the Hendrick race cars were allowed to use the louvers in practice, the parts in question were confiscated after the preliminary session at the 1-mile track, and Hendrick Motorsports were allowed to continue with the weekend’s event. After taking the parts into their custody, officials will further evaluate the items this week at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina. If the parts do not pass NASCAR’s evaluation, penalties will be announced prior to the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
What is a hood louver?
Hood louvers are essentially vents or hood openings that serve as the exit point for the ducts that move air out of the radiator and away from the car. Looking at a three-dimensional rendering of the Next Gen car, the air release systems were created to separate engine performance from the car’s aerodynamics.
What are the potential penalties for an equipment violation in NASCAR?
NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell warned the entire league last year that “penalties will be ratcheted up,” according to NBC Sports.
NASCAR considers modifications to a Next Gen single-source vendor part an L2 penalty, which could carry any of the following sanctions, according to NBC Sports.
- A loss of 75 points for the driver and/or team owner
- A loss of 10 playoff points for the driver and/or team owner
- A four-race race suspension for particular crewmember(s)
- A $100,000 fine
Should the severity of the modification penalty warrant elevating it to an L3 infraction, drivers and teams face even harsher punishment, which could include:
- A loss of 120 points for the driver and/or team owner
- A loss of 25 playoff points for the driver and/or team owner
- A six-race race suspension for particular crewmember(s)
- A $250,00 fine
How did not having the hood louvers affect the Hendrick Motorsports drivers?
Despite the NASCAR officials removing the parts in question and potentially disturbing the drivers’ racing mentality, Hendrick Motorsports still dominated. Larson won the pole and Byron went on to win the official race on Sunday – his second consecutive Cup Series victory this year. In fact, Hendrick Motorsports could not be distracted from their ultimate goal and dominated the pack so much on Sunday that the duo of Larson and Byron combined to lead the 317-lap race for 83.6 percent of the time. All Hendrick Motorsports teammates placed within the top-10 with Larson finishing 4th, Bowman in 9th and Berry taking the 10th spot.
What has Hendrick Motorsports said about the confiscation?
After the main race Sunday, Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon responded to the news that NASCAR officials had confiscated hood louvers from its four competing race cars.
“We had some conversation, will continue to have conversations, with NASCAR,” Gordon told NBC Sports Sunday. “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.”
“I think it really opened up the door for some miscommunication,” he continued. “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.”
The fact that Hendrick cars competed so successfully is a brilliant indicator in the general strength of the team, Gordon stated.
“These guys have speed in the car,” Gordon added. “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.”
Rudy Fugle, who serves as Byron’s crew chief, championed the focus of everyone in the organization for not allowing the hood louver issue derail their pursuits of running a strong race.
“It’s a test of mental strength,” Fugle noted. “That’s just what it takes to be really good in this series. We have to think about what the task is. We have to focus on this weekend. That’s what we all did.”