‘More money, better lawyers.’ NASCAR drivers react to Hendrick’s successful appeal

·4 min read

The comments ranged from confusion to cynicism to content — with Kyle Busch summing up everyone’s emotions with six words and a shrug.

“More money, more lawyers, better lawyers,” Busch said, drawing a laugh.

Busch said this in the Richmond Raceway media center on Saturday in response to the biggest news in NASCAR this past week: The National Motorsports Appeals Panel ruled that Hendrick Motorsports had illegally modified a single-source vendor supplied part (hood louvers) — validating NASCAR’s ruling the week before — but the panel also determined that the points NASCAR deducted from the affected Hendrick Cup teams should be restored.

And that left Busch a bit irked but also a bit unsurprised.

“The precedent was set early on with this car in the meetings that we had with NASCAR about not messing with stuff, and taking it pretty seriously,” Busch said. “Last year, a few guys got busted and they had all their stuff upheld. So for it to not be completely upheld this time around I think shows a break in the system, and you know, it’s a matter of what you think you can get away with, or how you build your case, or how good your lawyers are.”

Hendrick Motorsports as a race team is considered by many as “the New York Yankees of NASCAR.” The organization is one of the largest in the industry with approximately 500 employees.

Other drivers agreed with Busch. One of which was his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin.

“Was I surprised? I don’t think we should be surprised by anything,” Hamlin said on Saturday. “It certainly was unprecedented for them to say it was wrong but we’re going to change the penalty. But in today’s world, you just don’t know — without a statement, without proof, without transparency — none of us really know what’s going on.”

Hamlin will be making an appeal to NASCAR’s penalty later this month. The driver of the No. 11 Chevrolet was slammed by NASCAR for “attempting to manipulate the outcome of the race or championship” after an altercation he had with Ross Chastain at the end of the race at Phoenix last month. (Hamlin admitted on his podcast called “Actions Detrimental” that he intentionally ran Chastain into the fence, but Hamlin decided to ultimately appeal the penalty because he didn’t do all what NASCAR said he did, he said.)

He laughed and made a reference to his impending appeal on Saturday.

“Listen, I can assure you that if I’m the only one getting a points penalty out of this whole thing, then there’s something wrong with the system,” Hamlin said. “That’s for sure.”

The points restoration catapulted the affected Hendrick cars in the driver standings.

Alex Bowman sits first in drivers points heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway. (He leap-frogged Ross Chastain in the points race; Chastain said he didn’t know enough to have a reaction to the Hendrick appeals decision.)

William Byron and Kyle Larson are now in the Top 10, too.

Mar 11, 2023; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (5) during qualifying for the United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2023; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (5) during qualifying for the United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Hendrick drivers largely stuck by a similar refrain Saturday: They had already accepted the situation.

“For me personally, I had kind of moved on,” Byron said. “That’s how I was still continuing to race the way I was, but certainly welcomed the news.”

Byron is safely in the playoffs no matter how he finishes in the points standings this regular season, thanks to his back-to-back wins in March. But getting those elusive 10 playoff points back were huge for his postseason hopes, he said.

“For us, going back to where we are in points now, we can approach the races probably more aggressively knowing that we got our playoff points back,” Byron said. “It was tough to think about how we were 10 playoff points down. That was the big thing. You know, you could probably make up the 100 (driver points) throughout the season, but having two race wins worth of playoff points go off was tough. So now we’re back in a good situation, and we’re back in a good place we were before, so yeah, it feels good.”

Larson shared a similar sentiment to his teammate, adding, “It wasn’t something that I had thought about.”

Some of the penalties are still in place, though. Among them: The crew chiefs of the four Hendrick Cup cars — the No. 5, 9, 24 and 48 — are still suspended for two more races.

“Thankfully with us — I guess thankfully with us — we have experience with Kevin (Meendering) being part of the team and with Cliff (Daniels) not being here from last year,” Larson said. “So we’re familiar with it a little bit. But it’s not easy. I feel like it’s been a little tougher for whatever reason this year, just the communication or whatnot, maybe just because it’s earlier in the season than when we had it last year. Just excited to get these two weeks done and get Cliff back in the box.”