An ongoing controversy in the motorsports world has involved a handful of NASCAR Chevy teams that were penalized for allegedly modifying the hood louvres on their race cars. The parts were seized ahead of the March 12th race at Phoenix Raceway, one of which was the No. 31 Chevy Camaro ZL1 of Justin Haley, fielded by Kaulig Racing. After a long battle and a failed appeal to the National Motorsport Appeal Panel on April 6th, the Final Appeals Officer, Bill Mullis, ruled on April 18th that the penalties to the No. 31 Camaro team would finally be rescinded.
Specifically, the final decision states, “the Appellant violated the Rule(s) set forth in the Penalty Notice,” and elected to uphold the fine of $100,000 issued to the No. 31 NASCAR Chevy team, but reinstating the 100 championship driver points and 10 Playoff points initially deducted from Haley. However, crew chief Trent Owens must still serve his four-race suspension.
The hood louvres debacle has been a complicated ordeal for NASCAR and the teams involved. The No. 31 Camaro was just one of five Camaro race cars penalized for out-of-spec parts, as all four of Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) entries were also nabbed. However, HMS won its appeal and had all points reinstated, while Kaulig, which is a much smaller team with fewer resources, lots its initial appeal. This raised questions about favorability toward certain entities within the sport, ultimately prompting NASCAR to take direct action.
“In the interest of fairness, NASCAR has requested that I remove the driver/owner race and playoff points from the penalty to Kaulig Racing,” said Mullis in a statement. “I have agreed to this request, per the Rule Book. During its opening remarks, NASCAR stated it believes that the violations did occur, the penalties were appropriate and the three-person appeals panel ruled correctly.”
Mullis added, “But, because the Kaulig infraction closely mirrored that of Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR requested I rule in the same manner as the three-person appeals panel following the Hendrick Motorsports appeal on March 29th. The information I heard in the room this morning created an overwhelming and unique circumstance. In fairness to the team and sanctioning body, as NASCAR documented in its remarks, this request is fully in the interest of fairness and consistency, and I agree.”
Haley is currently 25th in the Cup Series point standings.