NASCAR: Why wasn’t Chase Elliott penalized after Phoenix?

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series drivers, sans Chase Elliott, were given 100-point penalties after the race at Phoenix Raceway.

The hood louvers of all four Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets were confiscated by NASCAR after Friday’s practice session for Sunday’s Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway, forcing their four drivers to qualify and race with new ones.

All four drivers finished in the top 10, with William Byron earning his second consecutive victory, but NASCAR announced on Wednesday that the team had been penalized in a major way.

Byron’s No. 24 team, Kyle Larson’s No. 5 team, Alex Bowman’s No. 48 team, and Josh Berry’s/Chase Elliott’s No. 9 team were hit with $100,000 fines and 100-point penalties in the owner standings. All were also docked 10 playoff points, and four-week crew chief suspensions were issued to each.

Additionally, Byron, Larson, and Bowman were all docked 100 points and 10 playoff points in the driver standings. Byron dropped from fourth to 29th place after two consecutive wins, Larson dropped from a fifth place tie to 32nd, and Bowman dropped out of the lead to 23rd.

However, while his No. 9 team was penalized by NASCAR, Chase Elliott was not.

And why would he be? He wasn’t penalized for one simple reason: he didn’t race at Phoenix Raceway, which is where the issue was discovered and acted upon.

Elliott has been sidelined with a fractured left tibia since the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two weeks ago. Berry, who competes full-time in the Xfinity Series and is therefore ineligible for Cup Series points (and therefore can’t be penalized himself), has been his replacement behind the wheel of the No. 9 Chevrolet.

So Elliott is effectively ahead of where he would be in the standings had he not gotten injured, unless he would have scored at least 100 total points at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway. He sits in 26th place, second highest among Hendrick Motorsports drivers.

More importantly, he was not docked 10 playoff points, which could prove huge if he ends up being granted a playoff waiver and qualifying for the postseason for the eighth straight season.

He is expected to return sometime in April, by which time he will likely have fallen to the bottom of the standings among all full-time drivers.

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Hendrick Motorsports do plan to appeal the penalty, so it will be interesting to see what the end result ends up being. The penalty will either be upheld, overturned, or modified.