Monday, April 15, 2024

Erik Jones receives L1 penalty for parts modification

2023 has not been kind to Legacy Motor Club and Erik Jones, and it only threw another punch in the gut for him Wednesday as NASCAR has issued an L1-level penalty for a modification to the car’s greenhouse. Jones and his #43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 lose sixty points each in the driver’s and owner’s championships, the former also being docked five playoff points, while his crew chief Dave Elenz has been fined USD$75,000 (€70,139.25) and suspended for the next two races.

Jones’ car was taken to the NASCAR’s Research & Development Center following Sunday’s Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, where he finished eighteenth.

The greenhouse is situated above the door and between the front and rear windows. Under Sections 14.1.C and D of the rulebook, as well as 14.1.2.B, the greenhouse “may be modified to accommodate a windshield wiper motor where required” but its dimensions must remain within regulation. Still, some teams have tried to skirt the rules for aerodynamic purposes.

The infraction was the same that befell Alex Bowman and William Byron from fellow Chevrolet team Hendrick Motorsports in April.

“We acknowledge the penalty issued by NASCAR and are working within the team to determine the course of action,” reads a team statement.

Legacy Motor Club has suffered through a difficult season, which perhaps makes them all the more eager to get to 2024 and their first year with Toyota. After winning the Southern 500 and finishing eighteenth in the 2022 standings, Jones only has two top tens through fifteen races in 2023 while rookie team-mate Noah Gragson is thirty-second in points with his best finish being twelfth. With the penalty, Jones falls from twenty-seventh in the standings to thirtieth, with his 68-point deficit to the playoff cut line ballooning to 128.

Jones’ L1 penalty was not the first of its kind for his team. In 2022, when Legacy was known as Petty GMS Motorsports, he and Ty Dillon were penalised thirty-five points for breaking the rules on rocker box assemblies.

With Elenz’s suspension, Legacy’s Vice President of Racing Operations Joey Cohen will fill in for the next two races at Sonoma Raceway and Nashville Superspeedway. Cohen will be making his Cup début after previously working in the Xfinity and Truck Series, winning twice in the latter.

The penalty adds to a growing list of points deductions in 2023, with the most recent happening just a week ago when Chase Briscoe lost a whopping 120 points for a counterfeit part. Hendrick and ally Justin Haley previously received a 100-point penalty for a louver violation that has since been overturned, Austin Dillon lost 60 for an underwing assembly infraction, and Denny Hamlin was docked 25 for driving conduct.

Jones was not the only driver to lose points at Gateway as Truck Series driver Chris Hacker and his #02 Young’s Motorsports team had twenty-five deducted for a window net violation. Young’s two other trucks, the #12 and #20, were slapped with the same penalty after Kansas in May.