Chad Knaus raises questions about NASCAR’s punishment

HAMPTON, Ga. – Chad Knaus of Hendrick Motorsports reacted strongly on Friday to penalties that NASCAR imposed on the organization for problems with the hood slats. He put the responsibility on NASCAR and single-source suppliers.

NASCAR stated that the hood louvers on all four Hendrick cars were changed on March 10 at Phoenix Raceway. Series officials took the parts 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 each with 100 points and 10 playoff points, along with their teams and the No. 9 team.

Hendrick Motorsports issued a statement on Wednesday and said it was attractive. Knaus, the league’s vice president, used stronger language during a meeting with media Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I think it’s a terrible situation, not only for us, but also for the industry to be honest,” Knaus said. “I think that’s what I hate the most. It’s ugly. We shouldn’t be in this situation and it’s a real shame we’re here because no one is helping with it.”

Asked to explain, Knaus said: “We as a company, we in the garage, each of these teams here are held accountable to put their car there to go through inspection and perform at the level they need. the teams held accountable.

“Nobody is holding the single-source providers accountable to the level they need to be to get us the parts we need. That goes through the NASCAR distribution center and the NASCAR approval process to get those parts, and we’re not getting the right parts.

“There are so many areas where we need to keep improving,” Knaus said, referring to the sport. “Again, that’s probably what I’m most disappointed about is that we’ve gone down this path, been working collectively as a group for a while now and for this to come out like this is really disappointing.”

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

“It was clear to us that these parts had been modified in an area that had not been approved,” Sawyer said. “This is a consistent penalty to what we experienced 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 went around this car last year, working with the owners on which should be the deterrent model, we were put in a position where we felt there was no other way but to write a penalty.

Asked if the adjustments might affect downforce, Sawyer said, “We don’t normally get into the intent, but I think it’s fair to say… performance could be around these adjustments.”

In his statement earlier this week, Hendrick Motorsports cited “documented inconsistent and unclear communications by the sanctioning body specifically related to slats.”

Asked to clarify that communication, Knaus said, “We submitted a part through (Chevrolet) to NASCAR and then NASCAR chose the single-source provider for those components.

“The components have not come as we expected for a few (manufacturers) as far as I know in the garage and certainly for all the Chevrolet teams, so we started to have a dialogue with them (NASCAR) in early February about those issues.

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

Knaus said Hendrick Motorsports typically 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 on March 10 in Phoenix.

Knaus said Hendrick’s cars often go through the voluntary inspection, “so NASCAR has the option to say, ‘Hey, we don’t like this’ or ‘Maybe you should modify that’ or whatever it may be. That’s pretty much the standard cadence.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated this week that the slats were not taken until four hours after 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 attention for that area when we first went through the technical inspection. That’s what really disappointed me, to be honest, is that we had enough time to get the parts off the car if we felt something was wrong.

“I can assure you that if we knew there was going to be a four-hour delay and we thought something was wrong, they would have been sitting in a bin burned with fuel somewhere so no one would ever see them. We had no idea we would be in this position. Really disappointed that we are in the position we are in now.”

Asked if he felt the parts were defective or if Hendrick had modified the parts that they believed were acceptable for NASCAR, Knaus said, “We have a brand new set of these parts that we can get right off the shelf now NASCAR as illegal and inappropriate for us to race.”

Knaus said the team was not aware of a date for the appeal.

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