TC Daily Pit Stop: Knaus Speaks on Louver Penalties; Hamlin Decides to Appeal; Rain Washes Out NCTS, NXS Qualifying
TC Daily Pit Stop: Saturday, March 18th, 2023
Chad Knaus: NASCAR’s Hood Louver Situation ‘Ugly’ and ‘Doesn’t Help Anybody’
Photo Credit: Craig White, TobyChristie.com
Both Hendrick Motorsports and Kaulig Racing have spoken out this week, in regard to harsh penalties handed down by the sanctioning body Wednesday, for the illegal modification of a single-source part, specifically hood louvers.
The penalties, handed out Wednesday to all four teams from Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 31 to Kaulig Racing, including a four-race suspension and $100k fine to the impacted crew chiefs, as well as the deduction of 100 driver and owner points, and 10 playoff points.
However, the situation isn’t as cut-and-dry as whether or not the penalized teams modified the single-source parts. As Chad Knaus, VP of Competition at Hendrick Motorsports, told members of the media Friday, it’s whether or not the teams have parts that meet NASCAR’s specifications.
“At the end of last year, everyone worked an awful lot; were very diligent in getting the spec parts developed, and everything done in the parity test that needed to be,” said Knaus. “When we started to get parts at the beginning of the 2023 season, we didn’t have the parts that we thought we were going to have.”
“So, through a tremendous amount of back-and-forth with NASCAR, the OEMs, and the teams, there’s been conversations about whether we can clean up the parts, not clean up the parts. And it’s changed, quite honestly, every couple of weeks. So it’s been challenging for us to navigate and we’re just going to have to see what happens when we get through the appeal.”
Inclement Weather Cancels Xfinity Qualifying; Sammy Smith to Start from First at Atlanta
Photo Credit: David Rosenblum | LAT Images | Courtesy of Toyota Racing
Fresh off his first victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last weekend at Phoenix Raceway, Sammy Smith will get the advantage of starting from the lead in Saturday’s RAPTOR King of Tough 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Smith, piloting the No. 18 Pilot / Flying J Toyota GR Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing, has been awarded the top spot to start Saturday’s event, after inclement weather forced NASCAR to cancel Friday’s scheduled qualifying session.
The starting lineup will be determined by NASCAR’s performance metric, which weighs the previous week’s finish for driver and team, the entry’s points position, and the fastest lap rank from the previous week’s race.
John Hunter Nemechek, a teammate to Smith and a winner earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway, will start on the outside of the front row, while Daytona and Las Vegas winner Austin Hill will start from third.
Ryan Truex will roll from fourth in Saturday’s 250-mile contest, after finishing runner-up to Smith at Phoenix Raceway. Riley Herbst will complete the top-five starters.
Rain Cancels Truck Series Qualifying from Atlanta; Zane Smith Leading Field to Green
PHOTO CREDIT: Ben Earp, NKP, Courtesy of Ford Performance
Defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Zane Smith will start from the first position in Saturday’s Fr8 208 at Atlanta Motor Speedway after inclement weather forced the cancellation of Friday’s qualifying session.
Smith, piloting the No. 38 Fr8Auctions.com Ford F-150, will start from the ‘pole position’ in Saturday’s third event of the year for the NASCAR Truck Series, based on NASCAR’s performance metric.
The performance metric, which weighs the previous race’s finish for driver and team, the entry’s points position, and the previous race’s fastest lap rank, put the Front Row Motorsports entry in the top spot.
Ty Majeski, a Ford Performance teammate of Smith’s, will start alongside him in Saturday’s event, with Ben Rhodes, Christian Eckes, and Carson Hocevar completing the top five.
Corey Heim, Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton, Chase Purdy, and Matt DiBenedetto will all secure starting positions inside the top-10 for the second event on the newly-reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Denny Hamlin to Appeal $50k Fine, 25-Point Penalty Handed Down from Phoenix
PC: David Rosenblum | LAT Images | Courtesy of Toyota Racing
Denny Hamlin will join Hendrick Motorsports and Kaulig Racing upon the list of parties set to appeal penalties from last weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series event at Phoenix Raceway, just two days after the driver originally said he wouldn’t appeal.
Hamlin, who competes full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing and co-owns 23XI Racing, was fined $50,000 and docked 25 NASCAR Cup Series driver points, after a scuffle in NASCAR Overtime with Ross Chastain.
However, it wasn’t the act of putting Ross Chastain into the outside wall which landed him the penalty per se, after the Chesterfield, Virginia native went on his podcast ‘Actions Detrimental’ and admitted to intentionally putting the driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro into the outside wall, saying “It wasn’t a mistake.”.
Hamlin announced his intentions to appeal the penalty on Friday afternoon, writing in a Tweet: “After much consideration, I’ve decided that I will appeal the decision made by NASCAR to penalize me. What happened on Sunday was common hard racing that happens each and every weekend. There was also no manipulation of the race nor actions detrimental to the sport.”
Christopher Bell Joins Hattori Racing Enterprises to Pilot No. 61 at North Wilkesboro
PC: David Rosenblum | LAT Images | Courtesy of Toyota Racing
Since capturing the 2017 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title, Christopher Bell has only returned to the series on one occasion, taking on a fill-in role for Harrison Burton at Bristol in 2018.
However, in a couple of months that will change, as Bell will compete in one of the most highly-anticipated events in the series’ history, running at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 20.
Bell, who finished third in NASCAR Cup Series point standings in 2022, will join forces with championship-winning organization Hattori Racing Enterprises to pilot the No. 61 Toyota Tsusho Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.
Earlier this year, Hattori Racing Enterprises confirmed to TobyChristie.com that the organization would be scaling down to a single full-time entry in 2023, which has been piloted by Tyler Ankrum. North Wilkesboro is set to mark the team’s first appearance with the No. 61.
Black Rifle Coffee Company Partnering with Gragson, LEGACY MOTOR CLUB for Six Races
PHOTO CREDIT: Craig White, TobyChristie.com
Black Rifle Coffee Company will partner with Noah Gragson and LEGACY MOTOR CLUB in six NASCAR Cup Series events this season, the organization announced on Friday.
The company, which has served as a co-primary sponsor of Gragson in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports, will make its debut on board the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro in next weekend’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas.
“It’s such an honor for me to continue working with Black Rifle Coffee Company and take it to the NASCAR Cup Series level,” said Gragson. “I really value all my partners and work hard for them. I love their coffee, and what their company stands for and to see them grow has been really amazing.”
Black Rifle Coffee Company will return as the primary sponsor of the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro at Charlotte in May, Nashville in June, Daytona in August, Bristol in September, and the season-finale at Phoenix in November.
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