The Blatant Favoritism for Hendrick Motorsports
Over the last few weeks NASCAR levied a few different penalties to multiple teams/drivers. Let’s take a quick look at all the penalties so far in no particular order:
1. Denny Hamlin fined 25 points and $50,000 for admitting to intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain - Phoenix
2. Kaulig Racing’s #31 team (Justin Haley) fined $100,000, 75 points for team and driver, and a four-race crew chief suspension for Trent Owens for modifying a single source parts - Phoenix
3. All Hendrick Motorsports team (#5, #9, #24, #48) were fined $100,000, crew chief suspensions for 4 races, 100 regular season points for each team and driver, and 10 playoff points per driver for modifying a single source part - Phoenix
-This penalty did not include Josh Berry who was filling in for injured Chase Elliott
4. Hendrick Motorsports #24 (William Byron) and #48 (Alex Bowman) were each fined $75,000, 2-race crew chief suspension, 60 team points, and 60 driver points - Richmond
Based on all of these, you’re probably asking yourself how Hendrick is being favored? All these penalties were issued by NASCAR. After these penalties are issued, the teams are then able to appeal and make a case to an independent body to argue the penalty, severity of the penalty, etc.
Last week, Hendrick had their appeal for their penalty at Phoenix for modifying the single source part. The single source part that was in question was the hood louvres used by the entire team. Before qualifying started at Phoenix, NASCAR officials noticed something that didn’t seem right about the hood louvres and confiscated all of Hendrick Motorsports hood louvres. This also included a single hood louvre from Kaulig racing.
After the louvres were confiscated, Hendrick Motorsports Vice President of Competition, Chad Knaus, was asked about the situation. In his interview, he basically said that the parts they received were junk and had to be “modified” to be safe. Now, last season we heard a lot of drivers and teams complain about parts not being up to par for the Next Gen car. However, this year so far, that is the only complaint anybody has made publicly about bad parts. Which leads me to a couple of question.
Were they really bad parts or are you just trying to use that as your story to hide cheating?
What else have you modified to where they weren’t safe to install on your car since no other team has claimed to have that issue?
There are two big differences between last year and this year with their “bad parts”. Firstly, we were able to physically see problems with the cars last season. Drivers would have to retire from the race due to power steering issues, brake problems, fire, etc. Obviously there are a lot of issues that happen in a racecar that the average fan doesn’t see, but a good majority of the time, we do see the symptoms of issues. Also, there were multiple teams that had the same issue last season. As I mentioned, the power steering issues last season, were mostly with the Toyotas, but we saw the same issue with other manufactures as well. I’m not buying what Knaus is trying to sell.
So, the appeal comes around last week, and the independent board finds the Hendrick Motorsports did knowingly break the rule of modifying a single source part, but they didn’t uphold the entire penalty that was consistently upheld last season. They still fined them $400,000 ($100,000 per team), and suspended the crew chiefs four races, but they gave them back all the points!
That is ridiculous. A panel of experts find that you knowingly cheated, and don’t uphold the only part of the penalty that actually matters? NASCAR suspensions don’t work like other sports leagues for some reason. A crew chief suspension only means that he can’t be on the pit box. He can still be at the race shop communicating with the team or whoever is filling in for him. They can still tell the mechanics how to set up the car at the shop. In every other sports league, if you are suspended, you cannot have any form of contact with the organization until your suspension is done. If NASCAR would get with the times on this, then that part of the penalty would actually matter, but until then, this is just a formality and a joke.
$400,000 is the most money any single team has ever been fined in NASCAR. Do you think that $400,000 matters to Mr. Hendrick though? Absolutely not. They are the biggest and best team in the history of NASCAR. They have that kind of money for days on end. So, what actually matters? The points.
Teams make most of their money off sponsorships. What teams do you think get the most money and biggest sponsors? Teams that win races and championships. If even one of their drivers makes it to the Championship four, which at this point in the season it’s looking like a lock for at least one of them to be there, they could potentially earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more in sponsorship money.
After this ridiculous ruling, Hamlin and Kaulig had their appeals as well. Since Kaulig Racing only had one hood louvre confiscated, you would assume their penalty would be lowered like Hendrick’s or all together scrubbed because if you’re going to cheat, why would you only modify one louvre? You would do both. Obviously had to be some kind of mistake right? Nope. They upheld the entire penalty for Kaulig Racing but did reduce the points from 100 to 75. The board showed blatant favoritism to Hendrick Motorsports and then disrespected the integrity of the other competitors and the fans by not giving the same treatment to Kaulig Racing.
The most infuriating aspect of this penalty reduction is that they upheld NASCAR’s ruling for RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports, and Stewart-Haas Racing. They supposedly made it very clear last year that any modification to a single source part would result in this penalty. If this is a black and white rule with no give, I can get behind it. All the cards are on the table, and everybody know how to approach the situation. Apparently, that only applies if you’re not Hendrick Motorsports.
Do I think Hendrick Motorsports is to blame for this? Absolutely not. They are playing the game exactly how they should be. They are in the business of winning races and championships. You could have the argument of ethics around how they do it, but personally I don’t see grey area as cheating which is where Hendrick has always thrived in. Being ahead of the curve and finding speed wherever they can find it. Sometimes when you do that, you step over and break some rules. Obviously, they are going to always argue that they didn’t cheat.
The people that were on this appeals board should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for not upholding the entirety of the penalty. If Kaulig Racing were to have not lost any points, I wouldn’t be near as irritated about this. By keeping the points on the penalty for Kaulig, you are saying that Hendrick Motorsports will be treated one way and everyone else will be treated another.
The only reasoning behind this is purely financial. Hendrick Motorsports is basically a printing press of money for NASCAR. They easily bring in the most money by all the teams and have had the most popular driver for almost two decades now since Dale Jr. went there and now Chase Elliott has taken up the mantle. They win around 25% of all the races if not more every year and have the biggest sponsors on their cars. The last thing people want is for the best team in their sport to be seen as cheaters. If a smaller team does it, you can just say they were trying to find a competitive advantage to compete with teams with more money. But what are you gonna say when your best team does it?
Denny Hamlin just needs to shut up and deal with his penalty. The only thing I’m going to say about this is if you want to act like a badass then don’t complain when you get the repercussions. He wrecked Ross Chastain on purpose, which Ross had coming to him, went on his podcast (Actions Detrimental, by Dirty Mo Media) and bragged about how he intentionally wrecked him. Then he got a penalty and wanted to complain about it. How dumb do you have to be to admit to doing something “against the rules” and then act all surprised when you get a penalty?
One thing I will say in his defense is NASCAR has been very inconsistent about handing out penalties for intentionally wrecking other drivers. Last season alone you could find examples of drivers kind of admitting to wrecking people and not getting penalized for it. However, after Kurt Busch’s incident at Pocono, NASCAR did get a lot stricter on that penalty, even in the lower Xfinity series when Noah Gragson was fined for intentionally wrecking somebody.
I believe that Denny Hamlin is a great racecar driver. He just needs to quit being so damn whiney and a lot of fans would have more respect for him. I went to the playoff race at Richmond in the fall of 2021 and he got booed. The man got booed at his home racetrack. If that doesn’t tell you anything, I don’t know what will.
After the appeal, Hendrick Motorsports got another penalty following the race at Richmond. They were penalized for modifying the greenhouse area. From what I could find it is basically the top of the car from the opening at the top of the windshield across the top to the back windshield. The only reason to modify this would be an aerodynamic advantage.
If penalties for Hendrick Motorsports continue to be changed unfairly NASCAR will have a big problem on their hands. Teams are not going to want to keep competing in a series where they are competing at a disadvantage. All teams should be treated the same way. If a rule is black and white, all teams should get and receive the same penalty. The board showed absolute and blatant favoritism to Hendrick Motorsports and didn’t even attempt to hide it. This is a very bad look for NASCAR and disrespectful to the integrity of the sport.