Appeals panel upholds penalties against Kaulig Racing, amends points deduction

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel ruled Wednesday to uphold the L2-level penalties issued to Kaulig Racing for unapproved parts modifications entering the March 12 weekend at Phoenix Raceway but amended the points deductions.

The decision upheld the fine of $100,000 issued to the No. 31 NASCAR Cup Series team of driver Justin Haley and the loss of 10 owner and driver playoff points, as well as the four-race suspension levied to crew chief Trent Owens. However, the team was restored 25 driver and owner points for the regular season, bringing the total penalty down to 75 points in each category, rather than the initial 100 levied by NASCAR.

Thursday morning, Kaulig Racing announced on Twitter their decision to take their case to a final appeal hearing with the Appeals Panel. The time and date of the final appeal hearing is to be determined.

The Appeals Panel members for this hearing were Hunter Nickell, Shawna Robinson and Steve York.

While NASCAR discovered the hood louvers from all four Hendrick cars before practice at Phoenix on March 10, Kaulig Racing’s louvers were discovered during pre-qualifying inspection on March 11. NASCAR officials confiscated the parts from all five vehicles and took them back to the R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, for further examination. The team used an unmodified louver in the March 12 race, in which Haley finished 27th.

The hood louvers — which you can see on this Next Gen 3D model — are openings or vents in the hood that serve as a release point for ducts that transfer air out of the radiator. The system is intended to decouple engine performance from aero performance, offsetting the practice of teams taping off air intakes and placing undue pressure and heat strain on the car’s engine.

In the initial penalty report, the following sections of the 2023 NASCAR Rule Book were cited: Sections 10.5.1.A Guiding Principles Relative to Penalties; 14.1 C&D&Q Overall Assembled Vehicle Rules; Radiator Duct. The penalties issued were the loss of 100 championship owner points and 10 playoff points to the No. 31 team; the loss of 100 championship driver points and 10 playoff points to Haley; and a $100,000 fine and four-race suspension to Owens.