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NASCAR Drops the Hammer on Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing with Stiff Penalty for Counterfeit Part
The league's historic L3-level penalty comes in the wake of Stewart-Haas Racing using counterfeit parts during the Coca-Cola 600.
For NASCAR’s beloved Cup Series drivers named Chase, the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, North Carolina didn’t offer much southern hospitality. First, instead of trying to garner some much-needed points, Chase Elliott, who was sidelined from the track for six weeks as he recuperated from a snowboarding injury, intentionally wrecked Denny Hamlin for squeezing him into the wall, earning Elliott a one-race suspension.
While that in itself has enough juice to leave you gobsmacked, NASCAR torched Chase Briscoe’s team at Stewart-Haas Racing with one of its biggest penalties ever after the league discovered a counterfeit part in the underwing of Briscoe’s No. 14 Ford Mustang. This is the area on the undercarriage of the Next Gen car, going from the front splitter to the rear diffuser, and it serves the crucial purpose of generating a majority of the vehicle’s downforce as explained by NASCAR’s Steve LeTarte in this video.
How did NASCAR determine punishments for Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing Team?
Following the conclusion of the Coca-Cola 600 in which Briscoe finished in 20th place, Briscoe’s Ford Mustang was taken back to NASCAR’s Research and Development center. As part of a routine practice, the league selects a few cars to inspect after races. According to FOX Sports, those vehicles are ultimately determined at sole discretion of the series director.
Once the part was identified to be of counterfeit origin, NASCAR levied an L3-level penalty against Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team. It’s the first time the league has issued an L3-level penalty during the Next Gen car era, according to Motorsport.
In the league’s effort to maintain its tenets of fairness and transparency in how punishments are assessed, NASCAR cited several sections in its rulebook, including sections 14.1.C&F: Overall Assembled Vehicle Rules; 14.6.A: Underwing; and 14.6.3.B: Engine Panel.
What are NASCAR’s actual punishments against Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing Team?
In a historical first and one of its most significant punishments in the 75 years of the league, NASCAR hammered the 28-year-old Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team by docking them 120 regular-season points and 25 playoff points. Briscoe’s crew chief John Klausmeier earned a six-race suspension, and the league also fined SHR $250,000.
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The harshness of the penalty is truly unprecedented. The league has vowed to respond swiftly and forcefully to anyone or any team found guilty of tampering with the Next Gen car’s single vendor-sourced parts, but there’s been no punishment that registers close to this. Just a few weeks ago, Hendrick Motorsports and Kaulig Racing were hit with 100-point L2-level penalties for illegally modified hood louvers, but those penalties — besides the $100,000 fines incurred — were rescinded.
What has Stewart-Haas Racing said about the penalty?
Stewart-Haas Racing chief competition officer Greg Zipadelli said that Chase Briscoe’s team mistakenly utilized the part during the event.
"We had a quality control lapse, and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte," wrote Zipadelli in a statement.
"We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal."
What does NASCAR think of Stewart-Haas Racing’s reasoning?
NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer threw cold water on Greg Zipadelli’s excuse on behalf of Stewart-Haas Racing, explaining that the counterfeit part was a duct that was intended to cool the engine and redirect air away from the car — a part that Sawyer says is all designed intentionally to enhance performance.
“Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage,” noted Sawyer, according to NBC Sports.
"Anything that you would do around that area would be some [performance] gain, or they [Briscoe and SHR] wouldn't have done it," Sawyer clarified.
In addition to revealing the illegal part on Briscoe’s car also featured fraudulent lettering to mimic an approved part, Sawyer noted that NASCAR uses a template to check the interior of approved ducts, and the one on the No. 14 did not pass the test.
"When you counterfeit a part, it falls into a bucket with engines and messing with tires and things like fuel that is just not going to be tolerated," Sawyer warned.
How does the penalty affect Chase Briscoe?
The historic L3-level penalty slams the breaks onto what otherwise had been shaping up to be a respectful season for Briscoe, who had notched four top-10 finishes, including three in the top five. He was only four points below the current cutoff for the playoffs, but the infraction drops him to 124 points. The resulting nosedive from 17th place to 31st means Briscoe is now facing a must-win scenario to make the playoffs. That said, because his team was also hit with the loss of 25 playoff points, a victory might be the only way he’s capable of advancing.