NASCAR issued its largest combined fine in history this week, penalizing five drivers and four Hendrick Motorsports driving teams that participated in last weekend’s Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.
Four of the drivers — Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, and Josh Berry — were from Hendrick, and four of the five were deducted 100 regular-season points and 10 playoff points for attempting to use modified hood vents, according to NASCAR’s official penalty report.
According to Fox Sports, hood vents are a “single-sourced” part in NASCAR, and drivers were told they could not modify them in any way.
Justin Haley of Kaulig Racing also was penalized, and each team owner lost 100 owner points. Berry did not lose any points because he has not earned any in the Cup Series at this point in the season.
All four Hendrick crew chiefs were fined $100,000 each and suspended for four races.
Bowman, Byron, and Larson were among the top five drivers in the standings and dropped to 23rd or below with the penalties.
“It was obvious to us that these parts had been modified in an area that wasn’t approved,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, explained.
“This is a consistent penalty with what we went through last year. … 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 where we felt there was no other way but to write a penalty.”
Kevin Harvick leads in the standings after the penalties.
According to NBC Sports, both Hendrick and Kaulig will appeal based on “unclear communication,” manufacturer design, and the history of penalties from post-race inspections.
“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,” said Hendrick vice chairman Jeff Gordon.
“I think it really opened up the door for some miscommunication. 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.”
Denny Hamlin also was penalized $50,000 and lost 25 driver points after the Phoenix race for causing a deliberate crash.
NASCAR has one Cup race scheduled for Texas Motor Speedway in 2023, the AutoTrader EchoPark on Sept. 24.