Greg Ives, crew chief to Dale Earnhardt Jr., assesses the team’s performance through the first four races of the season and also discusses the adjustments drivers have made to the low-downforce package.
NASCAR fines Daniel Suarez $50,000 for pit road incident
NASCAR fined Daniel Suarez $50,000 for running into the cars of Alex Bowman and teammate Ross Chastain on pit road after last weekend’s race at Circuit of the Americas.
Suarez was upset after a potential top-five finish was lost in an incident in overtime.
MORE: Appeals Panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers
Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart but left the inside lane open. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.
As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to drive by and costing Suarez a top-five finish. Suarez finished 27th.
Suarez spoke briefly with Bowman before having a discussion with Chastain.
“It’s uncharacteristic of Daniel,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “There’s no excuse for what happened.”
.@Daniel_SuarezG not happy with @Alex_Bowman. He raced to catch up (even booted his teammate out of the way) and hit the back of the 48. No real confrontation, though. #NASCAR | #NASCAR75 | #EchoParkGP pic.twitter.com/ZszBAALAhs
— JJ (@TomcatNASCAR_2) March 26, 2023
Appeals panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers
Alex Bowman is back leading the points after the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 100-point penalty to each Hendrick Motorsports driver and team Wednesday. The Appeals Panel also rescinded the 10-point playoff to each Hendrick driver and team.
The Appeals Panel found that Hendrick violated the rule by modifying the hood louvers on the cars of Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson and Josh Berry at Phoenix. The louvers were taken after practice that weekend.
The Appeals Panel kept the $100,000 fine and four-race suspension to each Hendrick crew chief: Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Blake Harris and Rudy Fugle. All four sat out the past two races, meaning they’ll miss this weekend’s race at Richmond and next weekend’s race on the dirt at Bristol before returning the following weekend at Martinsville.
The Appeals Panel did not give a reason for its decision.
Bowman had been 16th in the standings with the 100-point penalty. He now has a 15-point lead on Ross Chastain after getting all those points back.
Byron goes from 22nd to third after getting his points back. He’s 29 points behind Bowman, 14 points behind Chastain and five points ahead of Kyle Busch. Byron also gets his 10 playoff points back for his wins at Las Vegas and Phoenix.
Larson goes from 27th to ninth with getting his points back.
“We are grateful to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel for their time and attention,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “Today’s outcome reflects the facts, and we’re pleased the panel did the right thing by overturning the points penalty. It validated our concerns regarding unclear communication and other issues we raised. We look forward to focusing on the rest of our season, beginning with this weekend’s race at Richmond (Raceway).”
NASCAR stated its displeasure with part of the penalty being rescinded.
“We are pleased that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel agreed that Hendrick Motorsports violated the rule book. However, we are disappointed that the entirety of the penalty was not upheld. A points penalty is a strong deterrent that is necessary to govern the garage following rule book violations, and we believe that it was an important part of the penalty in this case and moving forward. We will continue to inspect and officiate the NASCAR garage at the highest level of scrutiny to ensure a fair and level playing field for our fans and the entire garage.”
The panelists on the appeal were former driver Bill Lester, Kelly Housby and Dixon Johnston.
Here is the updated points
1. Alex Bowman 226 points
2. Ross Chastain 211
3. William Byron 197
4. Kyle Busch 192
5. Joey Logano 186
6. Kevin Harvick 186
7. Christopher Bell 184
8. Ryan Blaney 177
9. Kyle Larson 170
10. Austin Cindric 166
11. Martin Truex Jr. 165
12. Brad Keselowski 162
13. Tyler Reddick 161
14. Denny Hamlin 161
15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 159
16. Chris Buescher 157
17. Daniel Suárez 144
18. Corey LaJoie 139
19. Michael McDowell 125
20. Ty Gibbs 118
21. Bubba Wallace 103
22. AJ Allmendinger 103
23. Erik Jones 99
24. Chase Briscoe 96
25. Todd Gilliland 95
26. Austin Dillon 93
27. Noah Gragson 86
28. Aric Almirola 70
29. Ryan Preece 69
30. Harrison Burton 66
Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway
The NASCAR Cup Series’ first short track points race of the season is scheduled Sunday at Richmond Raceway, a presence on the NASCAR schedule since 1953.
Tyler Reddick is coming off his first win of the season last Sunday at Circuit of the Americas. He gave Toyota its first victory of the year.
MORE: William Byron is No. 1 in NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings
The Richmond race is the first of three consecutive events on short tracks. The series will race on the dirt surface at Bristol Motor Speedway April 9 and the Martinsville Speedway half-mile April 16.
A look at drivers to watch Sunday at Richmond:
- Points position: 13th
- Best seasonal finish: 1st (COTA)
- Past at Richmond: No finish better than 11th in five career starts
Reddick showed the promise of what could be a strong season by dominating Sunday’s race at COTA. His victory boosted him five spots in points to 10th. Richmond, a track where he has never led a lap, will be a test.
- Points position: 3rd
- Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas 1, Phoenix 1)
- Past at Richmond: Led 122 laps in April race last year
Byron had a top car in this race last season but was passed by Denny Hamlin for the win with five laps remaining. Byron finished third, his career-best run at Richmond.
- Points position: 14th
- Best seasonal finish: 6th (Auto Club, Atlanta 1)
- Past at Richmond: Four consecutive top-four runs, including a win
Hamlin can be counted on to challenge for the win every time the tour rolls into Richmond. He has won there in 2009, ’10, ’16 and ’22.
QUESTIONS TO ANSWER
- Points position: 17th
- Best seasonal finish: 4th (Auto Club)
- Past at Richmond: Best career finish is 7th
After opening the season with top-10 runs at Daytona, Fontana and Las Vegas, Saurez has plummeted into the 20s in three consecutive races. Richmond will present another big challenge. Suarez has five consecutive finishes of 16th or worse there.
- Points position: 29th
- Best seasonal finish: 12th (Phoenix 1)
- Past at Richmond: Top finish of 20th in five career starts
Preece’s first full-time season in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 has started poorly. He has been sidelined by accidents in three races and was more upset than most after being parked by a multi-car crash Sunday at COTA.
- Points position: 1st
- Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas 1, COTA)
- Past at Richmond: Three top 10s, including a win, in past five races
Bowman seems poised to score his first victory of the season. He has been among the tour’s most consistent drivers to date, with five top-10 finishes in six races.
What takes place in a NASCAR appeal hearing? Here’s a look
Hendrick Motorsports is scheduled to have its appeal hearing at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday.
So what will happen in the appeal hearing? Here is a look at the process, based on the NASCAR Cup Rule Book.
NASCAR penalized Hendrick Motorsports for modifications to hood louvers. Those penalties were:
- Docked Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson and William Byron 100 points and 10 playoff points each.
- Suspended crew chiefs Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle and Blake Harris four races each and fined each $100,000.
- Penalized each of the four Hendrick teams 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.
Before the appeal hearing starts, both sides — in this case, Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR — must file a written summary presenting their case before the hearing.
The summary must not be longer than two single-spaced pages. Any attachments or appendices either side intends to present during the hearing must be included. Such attachments or appendices may include, but are not limited to, video, written statements, diagrams, photographs and charts.
The summary is to be filed by 5 p.m. ET two days before the beginning of the hearing. The summary shall be confidential and not released to the public. The Cup Rule Book says that releasing the summary to the public “may result in a penalty.”
The appeal will be heard by three members. They will come from a pool of panelists. The Cup Rule Book lists 19 panelists. That group includes former drivers Mike Skinner, Lake Speed, Bill Lester, Shawna Robinson and Lyn St. James, along with others in various roles in motorsports.
The Cup Rule Book states that “in seating an Appeals Panel, the Administrator shall take into consideration the panelists’ availability, background, professional experience and knowledge.”
The Cup Rule Book states “the burden rests on NASCAR to show that it is more likely than not that a violation … has occurred, and that the Penalty Notice issued is within the guidelines of the NASCAR Rules.”
Both parties are allowed in the hearing room while each side presents evidence. NASCAR goes first.
After both sides finish, there is a break before an optional rebuttal period. NASCAR has the chance to go first, followed by those appealing.
Once that is complete, NASCAR is permitted one last opportunity to “argue, explain, or present rebuttal on the facts and violation” to the appeal panel since NASCAR carries the burden of proof.
The appeal panelists may ask questions to either group or any witnesses at any time during the hearing.
Decisions by the three-member National Motorsports Appeals Panel do not need to be unanimous.
The National Motorsports Appeals Panel can affirm the penalty or adjust it. The panel can rescind some or all of the penalties or increase any or all penalties.
When NASCAR penalized William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Hamlin during a caution in last year’s playoff race at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports appealed. The National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 25-point penalty but increased his fine to $100,000. NASCAR amended its rule book after the panel’s decision.
NASCAR does not have the option to appeal the panel’s decision. Those who filed the appeal can further appeal the panel’s decision to the Final Appeal Officer. That decision can’t be appealed.
Kaulig Racing and Denny Hamlin each will go through this process when their appeals are heard. Kaulig Racing’s appeal is April 5 for modifications to a hood louver. Hamlin’s appeal is April 6 for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on the last lap of the Phoenix race.