Week 6 GFT NASCAR AI Driver Rankings: Chastain holds P1 as penalties blow up rankings

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23 March 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News

AUSTIN, TX — Circuit of the Americas — As we get ready for the NASCAR Cup Series first road course of 2023, the Go Full Throttle NASCAR AI Driver Ranking and Race Prediction algorithms are working overtime to adjust for the massive HMS points penalties. William Byron took a double hit this week between the penalty and getting caught up in a crash at Atlanta, finishing 32nd. The result for the №24 driver, who already has 2 wins in 2023, is a 16 point drop from P1 in the rankings to P17. Ross Chastain has retaken the Number 1 ranking, with Joey Logano (your Atlanta winner) P2, Christopher Bell P3, Brad Keselowski P4, and Kyle Busch P5. Other HMS drivers hit with penalties from the hood louver modification case include: Alex Bowman (now P21) and Kyle Larson who is now P29 after the penalty and a 31st place finish at Atlanta.

Week 6 NASCAR GFT Top 25 AI Driver Rankings following the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 (Image: GFT Digital / gofullthrottle.net)

NASCAR gives Hendrick Motorsports, Kaulig Racing L2-level penalties

NASCAR penalized each of Hendrick Motorsports’ four Cup Series teams, along with the №31 team of Kaulig Racing, with L2-level penalties on Wednesday for unapproved parts modifications last weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Each crew chief was fined $100,000 and suspended for four races, and each team was further penalized with the loss of 100 team and driver points and 10 playoff points (with the exception of the №9, which did not lose driver points because it had a substitute driver who earns Xfinity Series points).

The penalties occurred after NASCAR confiscated the hood louvers from all five cars before Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway. The Hendrick teams involved were the №5 Chevrolet driven by Kyle Larson, the №9 of Josh Berry (subbing for the injured Chase Elliott), the №24 of William Byron and the №48 of Alex Bowman; the №31 of Justin Haley was the Kaulig team involved. The respective crew chiefs fined and receiving suspensions were Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle and Blake Harris for Hendrick and Trent Owens for Kaulig.

The NASCAR Rule Book section specifically referenced for the penalties was Sections 14.5.4.2.A, which deals with how the radiator duct is assembled. The teams were found with unapproved modification of a single-source vendor-supplied part.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said the severity of the penalties was in line with the deterrence structure put in place with the advent of the Next Gen car in the Cup Series last season. Sawyer referenced other L2-level penalties handed down last year to the №6 RFK Racing team and the №34 Front Row Motorsports team for unapproved modifications of a single-source supplied part.

“We, from time to time, will capture parts, we’ll bring them back,” Sawyer said in a Wednesday afternoon video conference with reporters. “And as we continue to investigate and look at parts and comparing parts, it was obvious to us that these parts had been modified in an area that wasn’t approved. This is a consistent penalty with what we went through last year with other competitors — the 6, the 34. So we felt like to keep the garage on a level playing field, the competition level where it needs to be, all the dialogue that went around this car last year working with the owners on what the deterrent model should be, we were put in a position that we did feel like there was no other way but to write a penalty.”

Its been two weeks now and still no announcement from NASCAR or the teams on when the appeals process will begin.

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Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle

Go Full Throttle editors and reporters bring you news & commentary on NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, and World of Outlaws. Member: National Motorsports Press Association