Did You Notice?… All four cars run by Hendrick Motorsports were penalized 100 points by NASCAR Wednesday (Mar. 15) for allegedly tampering with their hood louvers, confiscated during pre-race inspection at Phoenix Raceway. The Nos. 5, 9, 24 and 48 teams lose 100 owner points while Alex Bowman, William Byron and Kyle Larson lose 100 driver points (Chase Elliott was not affected as he wasn’t entered at Phoenix due to his snowboarding injury). Each team also receives a $100,000 fine while their crew chiefs were hit with four-race suspensions. (Kaulig Racing’s No. 31 team was also hit with these parts modification-type penalties).
If your first reaction is anything like mine when this penalty came out, it’s “what the heck is a louver?” It’s not something I would think of right off the bat, even as a journalist and TV production person covering this sport since I was a kid. I always thought of louvers as being more decorative, right? I remember them on the back of Pontiacs growing up as a kid as a cool little extra design flare.
The Merriam-Webster definition of a louver is simple: it’s a series of slats provided with one or more slanted, fixed or movable fins, to allow for the flow of air. Think the slats on your air vent at home, allowing heat or air conditioning to come through. I’ve provided an example below of how they look on the hood of a Next Gen car.
That’s where NASCAR has focused their attention, feeling Hendrick has tampered with the part originally supplied in an attempt to gain some sort of competitive advantage. All you need to read is the word “air” in that definition and you can see why the sport believes there could have been a competitive advantage here, an accusation they’ve levied while applying the equivalent of a Class A felony charge to one of the sport’s legacy organizations.
“It was obvious to us,” said NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer, “That these parts had been modified in an area that wasn’t approved. This was a consistent penalty that we went through last year with other competitors.”
HMS vehemently disagrees, coalescing their inevitable appeal around three specific arguments. For starters, they believed the louvers given to them don’t match the design given by the manufacturer or were approved by NASCAR; secondly, there was inconsistent and unclear communication given by NASCAR surrounding this part;…
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