Chad Knaus raises questions about NASCAR penalty for Hendrick Motorsports

HAMPTON, Ga. – Hendrick Motorsports’ Chad Knaus responded vigorously on Friday to penalties NASCAR imposed against the organization for issues with its hood louvers. He put the onus on NASCAR and single-source providers.

NASCAR stated that the hood louvers on all four Hendrick cars were modified on March 10 at Phoenix Raceway. Series officials picked up the pieces after Cup practice that day.

NASCAR fined all four 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 their teams and the No. 9 team.

Hendrick Motorsports issued a statement on Wednesday and said it was appealing. Knaus, vice president of competition, used stronger language when meeting with the media on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I think it’s a terrible situation, not just for us, but for the industry, to be honest with you,” Knaus said. “I think that’s what I like the least. Its ugly. We shouldn’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, each of these teams here is being held accountable for getting their car out there to pass inspection and perform at the required level. The teams are being held accountable for this.

“No one is holding single-source suppliers accountable to the level they need to provide us with the parts we need. It goes through NASCAR’s distribution center and NASCAR’s approval process to get those parts, and we’re not getting the right parts.

“There are so many areas that we have to continue to improve,” Knaus said, referring to the sport. “Again, that’s where I’m probably most disappointed is that we’ve been going down this road, working collectively as a group for quite some time now and for it to show up like this is really disappointing.”

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said earlier this week that the hood louvers have been modified.

“It was obvious to us that these parts had been modified in an unapproved area,” Sawyer said. “This is a penalty consistent with what we went through last year. … We felt like keeping the garage on a level playing field and the level of competition where it needs to be, all the dialogue that took place around this car last year, working with the owners on what the deterrent model should be, we were put in a position in which we felt there was no other way but to score a penalty.

Asked if the modifications could impact downforce, Sawyer said: “We don’t normally go into the intent, but I think it’s fair to say… it could be the performance around those modifications.”

In its statement earlier this week, Hendrick Motorsports cited “inconsistent and unclear communication documented by the sanctioning body specifically relating to shutters”.

Asked to clarify those communications, Knaus said, “We shipped a part through (Chevrolet) to NASCAR, and then NASCAR chose the single-source supplier for those components.

“Components are not coming the way we would have hoped for some (manufacturers) as far as I know in the garage and definitely for all Chevrolet teams, so we started a dialogue with them (NASCAR) in early February about these issues.

“It was us through our aero department, through (Chevrolet), back to NASCAR, back to us and back to (Chevrolet). There is a significant amount of communication that has taken place. It’s definitely confusing. The timelines are curious, but they are there.”

Knaus said Hendrick Motorsports normally undergoes a voluntary on-track inspection after passing the mandatory engine inspection and mandatory safety inspection shortly after the garage opens for the race weekend. That’s what the Hendrick cars did in Phoenix on March 10th.

Knaus said Hendrick cars often pass voluntary inspection “so NASCAR has an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, we don’t like this’ or ‘Maybe you need to tune this up’ or whatever. That has been the default cadence.”

Hendrick Motorsports claimed this week that the shutters were not removed until four hours after passing that voluntary inspection. Knaus said he didn’t know why NASCAR didn’t do something right away.

“It’s really confusing,” Knaus said. “We knew there was some attention in that area when we went through the first technical inspection. What’s really disappointing to me, honestly, is that we had a lot of time to get parts out of the car if we felt something was wrong.

“I can guarantee you that if we knew there was going to be a four hour delay and we thought something was wrong, they would be in a garbage can being burned with fuel somewhere so nobody would see them. We had no idea that we would be sitting in this position. Really disappointed that we are in the position we are in now.”

Asked if he thought the parts were defective or that Hendrick had modified parts they found acceptable to NASCAR, Knaus said: “We have a new set of these parts that we can pull off the shelf now that NASCAR has deemed it illegal and inappropriate for us to race. ”.

Knaus said the team was not aware of an appeal date.

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