Wednesday has proven to be a rough day for Hendrick Motorsports.
Hours after longtime sponsor Lowe’s announced it would not return to the team and Jimmie Johnson‘s #48 car for 2019, Chase Elliott has received an L1-level penalty for a rear suspension infraction during Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway. He finished third in the race.
The team broke Section 20.14.2 of the rulebook: the #9 car’s truck trailing arm spacer/pinion angle shim mating surfaces was not “in complete complete contact at all points, at all times.” If the surfaces are applied differently, they could produce more sideforce and give the driver a larger aerodynamic advantage.
Crew chief Alan Gustafson was fined $50,000, while crew chief Josh Kirk will miss the next two races at Auto Club Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. Elliott also loses 25 points in the driver’s championship. He was originally sixteenth in points with 91, but the penalty drops him to twenty-third with 66.
It is Elliott’s first L1 penalty since the 2017 race at Chicagoland Speedway, when he was penalized for adding tape to his car. Said tape would increase downforce and therefore car performance.
Elliott is not the first Cup driver to be caught with this violation. After last year’s spring race at Richmond Raceway, winner Joey Logano faced an L1 penalty for the same pinion mating surface infraction, though it resulted in crew chief Todd Gordon’s suspension rather than his car chief like Elliott.
The #9 was not the only Cup team punished during the weekend. Five crew chiefs – Mike Wheeler (Denny Hamlin), Jeremy Bullins (Ryan Blaney), Brian Pattie (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), Gordon (Logano), and Cole Pearn (Martin Truex Jr.) – suffered $10,000 worth of fines each for improperly-secured lug nuts.
The #9 team may appeal the ruling to the National Motorsports Appeal Panel.
Elliott will seek to make up his larger points deficit in next Sunday’s Auto Club 400. He has finished in the top ten in both of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts (sixth and tenth) at the track.