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NASCAR Dishes Out Penalties To Hendrick Motorsports, Kaulig Racing Over Equipment Violations

The penalties come in the wake of NASCAR confiscating questionable hood louvers from the teams at Phoenix.      

By Andrew Woodin
Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, leads the field on a pace lap prior to the NASCAR Cup Series United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 12, 2023

NASCAR levied serious, L2-level penalties Wednesday on all four of Hendrick Motorsports’ teams as well as Kaulig Racing after officials removed unapproved hood louvers from the teams’ cars last weekend at Phoenix Raceway prior to the start of the United Rental Work United 500. The Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet cars in question are the No. 5 piloted by Kyle Larson, the No. 48 with Alex Bowman, the No. 24 with William Byron and the No. 9 with Chase Elliott’s replacement Jordan Berry; Kaulig Racing’s car is the No. 31 driven by Justin Haley.

What penalties were handed down to Hendrick Motorsports and Kaulig Racing?

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In addition to NASCAR fining each of the five racing teams’ crew chiefs $100,000, league officials also suspended the crew chiefs for the next four races. According to, further punishment was handed down in the form of massive point reductions – 100 team and driver points as well as 10 highly coveted playoff points. Since Berry earns Xfinity points while he serves as the substitute driver for Elliott who’s sidelined from the track with a snowboarding injury, Berry will not suffer the loss of any driver points. The crew chiefs from Hendrick Motorsports who were penalized are Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle, Cliff Daniels and Blake Harris, while Trent Owens is Kaulig Racing’s crew chief.

What rules did Hendrick Motorsports and Kaulig Racing break?

Hendrick and Kaulig were found to be in violation of Sections of the NASCAR rule book, which directly centers around how the radiator duct is constructed. In NASCAR’s ruling, the league discovered the teams were in clear violation of possessing and using unapproved modifications of a single-source vendor-supplied part.

RELATED: Why Did NASCAR Confiscate Hood Louvers From Kyle Larson, Other Hendrick Motorsport Drivers?

Specifically designed to separate engine performance from a vehicle’s aerodynamics, hood louvers on Cup Series cars, as seen in this three-dimensional model of the Next Gen car, are shutter-like vents in the hood that exist as an exit point for ducts that move air out of the radiator. With the advent of the Next Gen car, other teams besides Hendrick and Kaulig have had issues fitting the louvers to the new hoods, and though there’s an ongoing internal debate between race teams and NASCAR brass on how to remedy the problem, no official solutions have been devised, potentially opening the door for future similar violations.

What has NASCAR said about the severity of Hendrick Motorsports’ and Kaulig Racing’s violations?

NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer stated that the serious nature of the teams’ penalties followed the deterrence plan that was set last season during the debut of the Next Gen car in the Cup Series. In revealing why NASCAR punished Hendrick Motorsports and Kaulig Racing to the extent that it did, Sawyer drew parallels between those teams’ violations to the L2 infractions committed last year by Ford driver Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 RFK Racing team and Ford driver Michael McDowell’s No. 34 Front Row Motorsports team. Like Hendrick and Kaulig, both RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports were found to have made unapproved modifications to a single-source supplied part.

“We, from time to time, will capture parts, we’ll bring them back,” noted Sawyer in a video conference with reporters Wednesday. “And as we continue to investigate and look at parts and comparing parts, it was obvious to us that these parts had been modified in an area that wasn’t approved. This is a consistent penalty with what we went through last year with other competitors — the 6, the 34.”

“So, we felt like to keep the garage on a level playing field, the competition level where it needs to be, all the dialogue that went around this car last year, working with the owners on what the deterrent model should be, we were put in a position that we did feel like there was no other way but to write a penalty,” Sawyer said.

Has Hendrick Motorsports responded to NASCAR’s ruling?

In a prepared statement released Wednesday, Hendrick Motorsports stated, “We are disappointed with today’s decision by NASCAR to issue penalties and have elected to appeal based on a variety of facts that include:

  • 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.”

Hendrick Motorsports also revealed that the “organization has made the strategic decision not to request deferral of personnel suspensions.”

Though NASCAR confiscated the hood louvers prior to Sunday’s race, Hendrick Motorsports driver Byron won in Phoenix – his second consecutive Cup Series victory this season.

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