Byron out to validate Hendrick’s strong start despite fines

HAMPTON, Georgia (AP) –

Back-to-back wins haven’t stopped William Byron from believing he and his Hendrick Motorsports team have a lot to prove at Sunday’s NASCAR stop in Atlanta.

In fact, Byron said on Saturday, there’s even more at stake. The drivers of the Hendrick Chevrolets want to show that their strong start to the season is not the result of illegal manipulation of NASCAR rules.

NASCAR blasted Hendrick Motorsports on Wednesday with the biggest combined fine by a team in series history for allegedly modifying louvers, which direct air through the cars’ hoods. The penalty included combined fines of $400,000 – $100,000 for each of his four crew chiefs – plus four race suspensions for the crew chiefs – Byron’s, Kyle Larson’s and Alex Bowman’s included.

Those suspensions begin with Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hendrick is appealing the penalties, which also affected the drivers by dropping 100 points in the regular season and 10 points in the playoffs.

Asked if the penalties provide more motivation for the team this week, Byron said: “Absolutely. I’m really excited to come out on track now.

“At the very least, it just goes to show that we’re not there yet and we have more to prove and more to accomplish. This is a dangerous thing, right?”

Byron qualified 11th on Saturday while the Ford drivers, led by Joey Logano, took the top eight spots. Larson qualified ninth and Bowman qualified 15th.

Byron won last year’s spring race at Atlanta, while Hendrick’s teammate and all-state favorite Chase Elliott was the winner in July. Josh Berry, 21st in the standings on Saturday, is the replacement rider, while Elliott is recovering from a fractured tibia suffered while snowboarding in Colorado last month.

Byron took advantage of the restart to beat Larson at Phoenix Raceway last week, following his victory a week earlier in Las Vegas.


NASCAR also penalized Denny Hamlin 25 points and a $50,000 fine for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on last week’s last lap at Phoenix. hamlin posted on his Twitter account that he plans to appeal the penalties, which came after he acknowledged on his podcast his intent to destroy Chastain.

Hamlin tweeted that the contact with Chastain was “common and hard running”.

Hamlin said on Saturday he would continue to tell the truth, despite many believing it was his admission, not his action, that led to the penalties.

“I will always remain me,” Hamlin said, adding that he likes the idea of ​​inviting Chastain to join him on the podcast.

“It would be nice to have an open and honest conversation,” he said, adding that the two talked. Hamlin said he believes the dispute with Chastain has been resolved and will not continue on track.

When asked why he believes the feud is over, Hamlin said “just taking each other’s word for it”.


In a similar result to Hendrick’s drivers qualifying in the top three to open the season at Daytona, Team Penske had the three fastest heats going into Sunday. Logano took pole with a speed of 177.374 mph, followed by Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney.

“I hope it’s transferable to the race,” said Logano of Ford’s dominance in qualifying. “… This is our wheelhouse when you come to superspeedways.”


Logano is from Middletown, Connecticut, and said he will always consider the NASCAR track in Loudon, New Hampshire, as his home track.

But Logano’s family moved to Georgia when he was a kid. So for him, Atlanta Motor Speedway—where he competed in Legends races while dreaming of driving the big track—is his second home.

“For me it’s always a dream to win at this track,” he said.


After Friday’s rain put an end to qualifying for Saturday’s NASCAR truck and Xfinity races, temperatures were in the high 40s for Cup qualifying. The first driver on the corner, BJ McLeod, immediately lost control of his Chevrolet, leading to a spin that defied the theory that a cold track would generate more grip for the tyres.

“It was probably a little more interesting than a lot of us expected, with the cars spinning and hitting the wall,” said Logano. “No one really knows what they have to deal with yet.”


Chad Knaus, vice president of competition for Hendrick Motorsports, said on Friday that his team was not trying to work outside the rules. Knaus described the shutters as “a component that we’ve all come to the conclusion is not right and we’ve all tried to work…to fix it because we’ve done that with other parts.”

Knaus said all NASCAR teams worked together on the Next Gen cars, which debuted in the Cup Series in 2022.

“That’s what I think we’re all proud of in the garage is that there was an enormous amount of give and take as we tried to learn to drive this car and work together,” said Knaus.


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