Chase Elliott and the #9 Hendrick Motorsports team have suffered an L1-level penalty after NASCAR discovered a rear window brace violation following the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Elliott finished eleventh in the race.
According to NASCAR, the #9 had an improperly-fitted rear window brace that resulted in the window bending. This violates Section 18.104.22.168 (dealing with rear window support) of the NASCAR rule book. The same penalty had affected Kevin Harvick following his win in March’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson was fined $50,000 and suspended for the next two races: the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway and the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. Hendrick has no intention of appealing the penalty, and Kenny Francis will serve as interim crew chief. Francis, a longtime crew chief for former Hendrick driver Kasey Kahne, worked with Elliott during his part-time Cup schedule in 2015. In late 2017, when Gustafson was suspended for an L1 penalty after the Chicagoland Speedway race, Francis was his replacement for the New Hampshire Motor Speedway event; Elliott finished eleventh. In 403 career Cup races with the likes of Jeremy Mayfield, Kahne, Aric Almirola, and Elliott, Francis recorded 17 wins, 75 top-five runs, 149 top tens, and 21 poles. He currently works as Hendrick’s Vehicle Technical Director.
The #9 team was also given a 20-point deduction in the driver’s and owner’s championships, reducing Elliott’s point total from 148 to 128. He also fell three spots in the standings, going from fifteenth to eighteenth behind Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, and William Byron.
It is Elliott’s second L1 penalty of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. After March’s TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway, he was punished for a trailing arm spacer/pinion angle shim mating surface infraction, resulting in his car chief Josh Kirk’s suspension for two races.
Elliott will seek to recoup his lost points at Bristol and Richmond. He finished in the top ten in both of his only Food City 500 starts. Although he has average finish of eighteenth in the Toyota Owners 400, his most recent Cup start at the short track resulted in a tenth-place finish.