HAMPTON, Ga. – On Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports team president and general manager Jeff Andrews and vice president of competition Chad Knaus discussed the recent penalties handed down from NASCAR and the team’s position on why it chose to appeal them.
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The 14-time NASCAR Cup Series championship-winning organization was penalized on Wednesday following NASCAR confiscating louvers on the team’s four cars last Friday afternoon following practice at Phoenix Raceway.
Among the topics Knaus and Andrews addressed were that the louvers provided to teams through NASCAR’s mandated single-source supplier do not match the design submitted by the manufacturer and NASCAR.
"We in the garage – every one of these teams here are being held accountable to put their car out there to go through inspection and perform at the level they need to," Knaus said to reporters Friday at Atlanta. "The teams are being held accountable for doing that. Nobody is holding the single source providers accountable at the level that they need to be to give us the parts that we need. That goes through NASCAR’s distribution center and NASCAR’s approval process to get those parts and we are not getting the right parts.
"There's so many areas that we have to continue to improve upon. That’s where I am probably the most disappointed. We are going down this path, working collectively as a group for quite some time and for this to pop up like this is really disappointing."
In the team’s statement announcing its plans to appeal the penalty, Hendrick Motorsports said, "NASCAR identified louvers on our race cars during a voluntary inspection 35 minutes after the opening of the garage and prior to on-track activity. NASCAR took possession of the parts approximately four hours later with no prior communication. The situation had no bearing on Saturday’s qualifying session or Sunday’s race."
William Byron won for the second straight race and Hendrick Motorsports placed all four of its cars in the top 10 at Phoenix.
The penalties assessed by NASCAR are a loss of 100 points in the driver and owner standings for each team, a fine of $100,000 to each team, a loss of 10 playoff points to each driver and team and four-race suspensions for each crew chief.
"We shouldn’t be in this situation and it is really unfortunate that we are because it doesn’t help anybody," Knaus said of the penalties.
The seven-time championship-winning crew chief shared that the team typically puts its cars in for voluntary inspection.
"I don’t understand why you would be hung and quartered for a voluntary inspection thing that typically you would be told, 'hey, you need to go work on that or hey, we need to discuss what is going on,'" Knaus said.
The lag time between the voluntary inspection and when the parts were taken was also something that has contributed to more questions.
"It is really confusing," Knaus said. "We knew that there was some attention to that area when we first went through technical inspection and that is what is really disappointing to me quite honestly, is that we had plenty of time to get those parts off the car if we felt like there was something wrong."
The severity of the penalty for something found in a voluntary inspection being the same as something found in post-race inspection during the Next Gen era was something Andrews touched on in his comments.
"If you look back at 2022 and the L2 penalties that were handed out, all of those were post-race inspection penalties," Andrews said. "There was not a L2-level penalty handed out in 2022 during a pre-race or at that point even a pre-inspection where a part taken and a penalty issued."
The organization made the strategic decision to not request a deferral of personnel suspensions since Atlanta is now a drafting track and a superspeedway-style race. An appeal date has not yet been set.
For this weekend’s race at Atlanta, Kevin Meendering (No. 5), Tom Gray (No. 9), Brian Campe (No. 24) and Greg Ives (No. 48) will fill in as crew chiefs. Meendering and Ives have a wide range of experience as crew chiefs and currently lead the organization's NASCAR Xfinity Series efforts. Gray, the former lead engineer on the No. 9, will be serving as a crew chief in the Cup Series for the first time. Campe, Hendrick Motorsports' technical director, has experience as a Xfinity Series crew chief, but Atlanta will also be his first Cup Series race atop the pit box.
"We are very fortunate at Hendrick Motorsports and the leadership that we have there," Knaus said. "We’ve got some amazing people that can fill in and help us out for trying times. Tom Gray has a tremendous amount of experience working closely with the 9 team and Alan Gustafson. We’ve got Kevin Meendering, who unfortunately had to sit in last year on the 5. Greg (Ives), obviously he is right at home on the 48. Then, Brian Campe is a great fit for the 24. We are in a really good spot there. We feel like if we can continue down the path of being successful, racing hard and doing whatever it is we need to do for our partners."