HAMPTON, Ga. — Hendrick Motorsports’ Chad Knaus responded forcefully Friday to penalties NASCAR levied against the organization for issues with its hood louvers. He put the onus on NASCAR and single-source suppliers.
NASCAR stated that the hood louvers on all four Hendrick cars were found to be modified March 10 at Phoenix Raceway. Series officials took the parts after Cup practice that day.
NASCAR fined all four of Hendrick Motorsports’ crew chiefs $100,000 each and penalized Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson and William Byron 100 points and 10 playoff points each, along with the their teams and the No. 9 team.
Hendrick Motorsports issued a statement Wednesday and said that it was appealing. Knaus, vice president of competition, used stronger language when meeting with the media Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“I think it’s a terrible situation, not only for us, but the industry to be quite honest with you,” Knaus said. “I think that’s what I dislike the most. It’s ugly. We should’t be in this situation and it’s really unfortunate that we are because it doesn’t help anybody.”
Asked to explain, Knaus said: “We as a company, 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. 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 we need. That goes through NASCAR’s distribution center and NASCAR’s approval process to get those parts, and we’re not getting the right parts.
“There’s so many areas that we’ve got to continue to improve upon,” Knaus said, referring to the sport. “Again, that’s where I’m probably most disappointed is that we’ve been going down this path, working collectively as a group for some time and for this to pop up like this is really disappointing.”
Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said earlier this week that the hood louvers had been modified.
“It was obvious to us that these parts had been modified in an area that wasn’t approved,” Sawyer said. “This is a consistent penalty with what we went through last year. … We felt like to keep the garage on a level playing field and 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.”
Asked if the modifications could impact downforce, Sawyer said: “We don’t normally get into the intent, but I think it’s fair to say … could be performance around these modifications.”
#NASCAR … Hendrick’s Chad Knaus in regards to penalties levied against HMS this week: “It’s a terrible situation, not only for us, but the industry to be quite honest.” pic.twitter.com/EfPrdsEGyx
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) March 17, 2023
In its statement earlier this week, Hendrick Motorsports cited “documented inconsistent and unclear communication by the sanctioning body specifically related to louvers.”
Asked to clarify those communications, Knaus said: “We submitted a part through (Chevrolet) to NASCAR and then NASCAR chose the single-source provider for those components.
“The components haven’t been coming the way we expected them to be for a couple of the (manufacturers) as far as I know in the garage and definitely all of the Chevrolet teams, so we started to have dialogue with them (NASCAR) in early February about those problems.
“It was us through our aerodynamic department, through (Chevrolet), back through NASCAR, back to us and back to (Chevrolet). There’s a significant amount of communication that has been had. It’s definitely confusing. The timelines are curious but they are there.”
Knaus said that Hendrick Motorsports typically goes through a voluntary inspection at the track after going through the mandatory engine inspection and mandatory safety inspection shortly after the garage opens for the race weekend. That’s what the Hendrick cars did at Phoenix on March 10.
Knaus said that the Hendrick cars often go through the voluntary inspection “so NASCAR has the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, we don’t like this’ or ‘Maybe you need to tweak that’ or whatever it may be. That’s been pretty much the standard cadence.”
Hendrick Motorsports stated this week that the louvers were not taken until four hours after going through that voluntary inspection. Knaus said he did not know why NASCAR did not do something immediately.
“It’s really confusing,” Knaus said. “We knew that there was some attention to that area when we first went through technical inspection. That’s what is really disappointing to me, quite honestly, is that we had plenty of time to get the parts off the car if we felt something was wrong.
“I can assure you if we knew there was going to be a four-hour lag and we thought there was something wrong, they would have been in a trash can being burned with fuel somewhere so nobody would ever see them. We had no idea that we were going to be sitting in this position. Really disappointed that we are in the position that we are right now.”
Asked if he felt the parts were faulty or that Hendrick modified the parts that they thought was acceptable to NASCAR, Knaus said: “We’ve got a brand new set of these parts that we can go pull off of the shelf right now that NASCAR deemed illegal and inappropriate for us to race.”
Knaus said that the team was not aware of a date for its appeal.