NASCAR: Why were only the Hendrick penalties rescinded?

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

Hendrick Motorsports had the points portion of the penalties issued to their four teams rescinded by a NASCAR appeals panel on Wednesday.

After it was discovered that the hood louvers on each of the four Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets had been illegally modified at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR dropped the hammer on the organization by penalizing all four teams — and all three active full-time drivers — 100 points and 10 playoff points in the standings.

Given the fact that an unapproved modification of a single-source vendor-supplied part is considered a huge violation in the Next Gen era, NASCAR also issued four-race suspensions to the crew chiefs of all four Hendrick Motorsports teams, plus $100,000 fines. But while these penalties still stand, the points penalties have all been rescinded by a NASCAR appeals panel.

Alex Bowman moved from 16th place the points lead, William Byron moved from 22nd to third, and Kyle Larson moved from a 27th place tie to ninth.

The hood louvers were confiscated before practice and qualifying on Phoenix Raceway weekend, so the team never used them to compete, and the drivers themselves never committed any sort of violation, so allowing them to keep their 100 points made sense to the three individuals on the panel.

But why are Hendrick Motorsports the only NASCAR Cup Series team that have had their penalties reduced?

The reason, at least for now, is simple. The other team and driver that have announced their intent to appeal their recent penalties have yet to have their appeals heard.

NASCAR issued the same penalties to Kaulig Racing’s No. 31 team and Justin Haley, and for the same reason: illegal modification of hood louvers on the No. 31 Chevrolet at Phoenix Raceway. Their appeal is scheduled for Wednesday, April 5.

Though the penalties were issued for the same reason, every case is unique, as are the panels for each appeal, and we don’t always get full insight into why certain decisions are made.

Plus, all four of Hendrick Motorsports’ cars had their louvers confiscated. Kaulig Racing did not have the same issue with A.J. Allmendinger’s No. 16 Chevrolet. If the verdict is different, how this happened could also play a role.

As for teams that were penalized for illegal modification of a of a single-source vendor-supplied part last year and lost their appeals, the same is true. Every case is unique.

Separately, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin was docked 25 points and fined $50,000 after running Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain into the wall in overtime at Phoenix Raceway, but he was only actually penalized after admitting he did it intentionally on his Actions Detrimental podcast. Hamlin’s appeal is scheduled for Thursday, April 6.

His response to the Hendrick Motorsports decision?

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Hamlin, who dropped from a 10th place tie to a 13th place tie in the standings with Bowman, Byron, and Larson getting their points back, would be in a fifth place tie in points had he not been docked 25 points.