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NASCAR Rescinds Kaulig Racing’s 100-Point Cup Series Penalty In Interest of 'Fairness'

The decision came down after Hendrick Motorsports had all of its lost championship and playoff points rescinded earlier by an appeals panel.      

By Andrew Woodin
Austin Dillon celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series

Members of Kaulig Racing, and Justin Haley who drives the No. 31 Chevrolet Camaro for the Cup Series team, can collectively breathe a sigh of relief after a final appeals committee decided to overturn its 100-point penalty on Tuesday. Stemming from unapproved modifications to single-vendor sourced parts that were discovered during the United 500 at Phoenix Raceway, the sanctions against Kaulig Racing were originally upheld by a three-person committee despite the fact that Hendrick Motorsports was absolved earlier from its penalties for the same infractions.

What parts did Kaulig Racing and Hendrick Motorsports modify?

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During a routine inspection prior to the United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR officials found that Haley of Kaulig Racing as well as four Chevrolets from Hendrick Motorsports – the No. 9 with Josh Berry, the No. 5 with Kyle Larson, the No. 48 with Alex Bowman and the No. 24 with William Byron – all possessed modified hood louvers. The parts in question are hood openings or hood vents that serve as an exit point for ducts that direct hot air out of the radiator and away from the car. The vents can be seen in a three-dimensional rendering of the Next Gen car.  

RELATED: Why Has NASCAR Hit Hendrick With More Penalties After Richmond Race?

Why did Kaulig Racing and Hendrick Motorsports originally receive such severe penalties?

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

In this case, NASCAR's penalty was slightly more severe, docking the each of the teams 100 championship points, in addition to the 10 playoff points, four-race suspension for the crew chief and $100,000 fine.

Why were the penalties for Kaulig Racing rescinded?

After an appeals committee removed the penalties for Hendrick Motorsports yet only reduced Kaulig’s to 75 points, team president Chris Rice chastised the decision, noting how ‘devastating’ the penalty is for such a small outfit like Kaulig. NASCAR then stepped in, asking final appeals officer Bill Mullis to eliminate Kaulig’s remaining penalty in an effort adjudicate on the same fair and equal playing field as it did with Hendrick Motorsports. The league issued a statement Tuesday in explaining its decision.

“NASCAR believes that Kaulig Racing committed the violations documented in the penalty notice, that the penalties were appropriate and that the three-person appeal panel ruled correctly when hearing the Kaulig appeal on April 5,” wrote NASCAR. “However, in the interest of treating all competitors fairly, NASCAR today requested that the final appeals officer remove the race and playoff points from the penalty.”

“The Kaulig and Hendrick Motorsports violations involved the same modified part found during the same race weekend and with fairness and consistency top of mind, NASCAR requested that the FAO match the final Hendrick Motorsports penalty,” the statement continued. “NASCAR believes that the updates made to the rule book will address similar issues in the future and keep its promise to the owners for strict penalties when single-source parts are modified.”

How has Kaulig Racing reacted to the new development?

Shortly after the racing outfit learned of the news, the group issued its own statement, applauding NASCAR and the final appeals committee for ultimately acting with fairness in mind.

“Kaulig Racing is pleased with the ruling of the Final Appeals Officer to amend the original L2 penalty issued by NASCAR following the confiscation of a louver at Phoenix Raceway,” said the company its Tuesday statement. “Regarding these unique circumstances, it means the world to us as an organization that the sanctioning body is working hard to ensure fairness and consistency across the board within our sport. We are focused ahead on Talladega and look forward to getting our season back on track with Justin Haley.”

What penalties were kept intact for Kaulig Racing?

As is the case for Hendrick Motorsports whose $100,000 fines and four-race crew suspensions for each Cup Car remain, Kaulig Racing’s fine and crew chief suspension were upheld.

Now that Kaulig Racing had its points reinstated, Haley now has 170 points in total for the season thus far, leaping him from 32nd place in the Cup Series standings to 24th. Additionally, if Haley makes the post-season, like the drivers for Hendrick Motorsports, he’ll no longer face an additional sanction of losing 10 playoff points – a penalty that would’ve been potentially crippling in the postseason.

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