If it wasn't already a rough weekend for the No. 43 team of Erik Jones, whose tire changer was injured during Sunday's Enjoy Illinois 300 at Gateway, things have gotten a lot tougher for the Legacy Motor Club team and driver.
NASCAR determined that Jones' team was in violation after they modified the greenhouse on the No. 43 Chevrolet. As a result, crew chief Dave Elenz was fined $75,000 and suspended for two races. In addition, Jones will be docked 60 points and five NASCAR playoff points.
NEWS: The No. 43 team has been issued an L1-level penalty for a modification to the greenhouse.
The penalty is a loss of 60 points and five NASCAR Playoff points to the driver and owner. pic.twitter.com/1Zh17kK4Jp
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 7, 2023
NASCAR has indicated that it will not tolerate any modifications to the Next Gen car. The car has had its challenges, but NASCAR has nonetheless taken a zero-tolerance stance.
The sanctioning body created a written deterrence system to try to stop modifications from taking place, along with a penalty system clearly laid out for alterations to the Next Gen car. Jones' situation is just another example of teams trying to push back.
Last week, NASCAR issued an L3-level penalty against Stewart-Haas Racing and Chase Briscoe's No. 14 team, docking them 120 points and 25 playoff points. L3 is the most severe of the three penalty categories (the penalty against Jones was an L1-level), so the rules against tinkering with cars should have hit home.
Clearly, the message still hasn't gotten through, and NASCAR VP of Competition Elton Sawyer is growing tired of penalties being the topic every week instead of the actual races. That was one of his talking points when he talked about SHR's penalty with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio last week.
"We would much rather be talking about the phenomenal racing we just had ... than penalties," Sawyer said. "We are the custodians of the garage."
In March, Hendrick Motorsports was hit with the largest combined penalties for a single organization in NASCAR history. HMS was docked 100 regular season points and 10 playoff points for three of its drivers for modifying air deflecting pieces at Phoenix Raceway.
That was eventually overruled by an appeals panel. But, NASCAR has since changed the appeals process, as many teams said it was unfair that the whole penalty was overturned except for crew chief suspensions.
NASCAR crew chiefs and teams have often tiptoed on the danger side with the rules, and this clearly isn't going to go away.
So I guess all NASCAR can do is keep penalizing those who are caught. One thing is puzzling, though: why are teams that aren't making much of an impact competition-wise the ones that get busted? It's not as though the modifications are helping those drivers find victory lane.
MORE: Erik Jones Pushed Chase Elliott to Victory at Talladega, and the In-Car Camera Video Shows the Epic Assist
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