Race Weekend Central

With R&D Center Penalties on the Rise, Will Public Shaming Be a Deterrent?

Penalties have been a major storyline of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, whether one wants to admit it or not.

Through 16 race weekends, 10 penalties across five different teams (and two penalties each to the No. 24 and No. 48 teams) have been levied from the findings of NASCAR’s Research and Development teardowns. Selecting cars to R&D is at NASCAR’s discretion, and they haven’t been afraid to drop the hammer as needed.

Driver/TeamTrackPenalty TypePenaltyNotes/Appeal
Erik Jones/No. 43GatewayL1, Greenhouse Violation60 driver/owner and 5 playoff points, $75K and one-race suspension to crew chiefPending
Chase Briscoe/No. 14CharlotteL3, Counterfeit NACA duct120 driver/owner and 25 playoff points, $250K and six-race suspensionDid Not Appeal
Austin Dillon/No. 3MartinsvilleL1, Underwing Assembly Violation60 driver/owner and 5 playoff points, $75K and two-race suspension to crew chiefAppeal Denied
William Byron/No. 24 & Alex Bowman /No. 48RichmondL1, Greenhouse Violation60 driver/owner and 5 playoff points, $75K and two-race suspension to both crew chiefsDid Not Appeal
Justin Haley/No. 31PhoenixL2, Modified Hood Louver100 driver/owner and 10 playoff points, $100K and four-race suspension to crew chiefPoints Penalty Rescinded on 2nd Appeal
All Four Hendrick TeamsPhoenixL2, Modified Hood Louver100 driver/owner and 10 playoff points (owner points only for No. 9), $100K and four-race suspension to all crew chiefsPoints Penalty Rescinded on 1st Appeal
Safety violations (runaway wheels, unsecured ballast, loose lug nuts, etc.) have been handed out in addition to driver conduct violations, so the above list is only limited to penalties handed out in R&D.


It’s a bigger list than one would hope for, but ever since the Hendrick Motorsports/Kaulig Racing appeal controversy at Phoenix Raceway in March, NASCAR has amended the rules to allow the display of illegal modifications to the drivers, the teams and the media.

Chase Briscoe‘s counterfeit part at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the biggest penalty handed out in the Next Gen era, and it was on display at Sonoma Raceway for all to see.

Drivers were asked about the counterfeit part during media availabilities at Sonoma, and Kyle Busch had perhaps the harshest criticism toward the No. 14 team.

“I wish we had a ‘what an idiot’ award,” Busch said. “I mean, even if you can’t find that part, you know you can call one of the other race teams and say – ‘hey, do you guys have this? Can we buy it from you?’

“[The counterfeit part] blows my mind. I don’t get it. For as little as that probably meant, that was a huge fine to the pocketbook and points book.”

The counterfeit part didn’t even give the No. 14 team an advantage at the Coca-Cola 600, as Briscoe was effectively driving a parachute all night. A race where he had an average running position of 26th ended with a 20th-place finish.

See also
Legacy Motor Club's No. 43 Team Handed L1 Penalty

When asked about the decision to display the No. 14 team’s counterfeit part to other teams, Busch was supportive of the idea. However, he also shared just how much he feels teams are getting away with.

“I think it’s kind of cool that they show all of that stuff; show exactly what’s going on and what guys are doing,” Busch said. “What’s crazy about it though, is all the penalties have come out of the R&D Center. I guarantee you that you could take 15 [cars] after every single race and there would be something wrong with 14 of them, you know? It’s all the tricks and what you’re trying to do and what you can get away with, all of the time.”

Busch posed an interesting question, as only a handful of cars are taken back to R&D each week. At Sonoma, NASCAR did not take a single car.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: Cheers & Jeers for 1st Half of NASCAR Season
If every car was taken back to R&D after a race, how many of them would be illegal?

It’s important to reiterate that only a person living under a rock would view cheating in NASCAR as a new development; teams have tried pushing the envelope since its inception. After all, we only know of the times that a team was caught; how many times throughout NASCAR history has a team pushed the envelope without anyone noticing?

As NASCAR has found new ways to detect something fishy, teams have to think out of the box and adjust again. Even with a Next Gen car that has numerous single-source parts, teams are still trying to find every advantage they can. And now that there is no longer a points requirement to make the playoffs, teams below the cut line have far more to gain and far less to lose by experimenting.

The number of penalties we’ve seen this year still isn’t a good look. However, now that the No. 14 team and all future teams have to endure the ‘Show & Tell of Shame,’ will that make teams think twice before trying something?

Even if it doesn’t, other drivers have joined Busch in saying that it’s the way to go.

“I love it,” Dillon said. “I think they should go back in time and do more of it. …

“It’s good that it seems like they’re doing it now, and looking at the comments, it seems the fans like it too.

“When stuff like [the No. 14 penalty] happens, [teams] know about it, they talk about it. It’s aggressive, but all teams out here that are good have had these aggressive moments in their time frame in NASCAR. This is just the first time that the media and the fans get to see it.”

It’s also worth noting that Dillon’s No. 3 team was among the teams penalized in the first half of the year.

Denny Hamlin, who co-owns 23XI Racing while driving full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing, echoed the same sentiments.

“I think this is a good thing,” Hamlin said. “Exposing, and kind of the public shaming, should be a deterrent. From what I saw, you almost have to think that was a mistake or just lack of judgement, for sure. But either way, it is not right.

“[Brad Moran] shows you that it doesn’t fit the template, so it just doesn’t fly with us. I think it is good to be transparent. The things that NASCAR is doing to be more transparent on the safety stuff and the technical stuff I think is all good. It is storylines, right? We are all talking about – hey, did you see that or not? It’s good for our sport and educates our fans, so I think it is a good thing.”

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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Bill B

I think the only thing most drivers/teams feel when someone gets caught and penalized is, “Thank God they didn’t take our car to the R&D center.”
I doubt there is much of a stigma because every week there are two types of teams, those who get caught and those who don’t.

DoninAjax

“Well that didn’t work out. We’ll have to try something else.”

Steve C

Yep, in short Na$car has accomplished their goal- everyone neutered & p.c. – or else!

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