HAMPTON, Ga. -- Back-to-back wins haven't stopped William Byron from believing he and his Hendrick Motorsports team have a lot to prove in today's NASCAR stop in Atlanta.
In fact, Byron said Saturday, there's even more on the line. Drivers of the Hendrick Chevrolets want to show the strong start to the season is not the result of illegally manipulating NASCAR's rules.
NASCAR slammed Hendrick Motorsports on Wednesday with the largest combined fine on one team in series history for allegedly modifying louvers, which direct air through the hoods of cars. The penalty included a combined $400,000 in fines -- $100,000 to each of its four crew chiefs -- plus four-race suspensions for the crew chiefs -- Byron's, Kyle Larson's and Alex Bowman's included.
Those suspensions begin with today's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hendrick is appealing the penalties, which also affected the drivers by losing 100 regular-season points and 10 playoffs points.
Asked if the penalties provide more motivation for the team this week, Byron said: "Absolutely. I really get excited about coming to the race track right now.
"If anything it just shows that we're not there yet and we have more to prove and we have more to accomplish. That's a dangerous thing, right?"
Byron qualified 11th on Saturday, while Ford drivers, led by Joey Logano, took the top eight spots. Larson qualified ninth and Bowman was 15th.
Byron won last year's spring race in Atlanta while Hendrick teammate and home-state favorite Chase Elliott was the winner in July. Josh Berry, 21st in qualifying on Saturday, is the fill-in driver while Elliott recovers from a broken tibia suffered while snowboarding in Colorado last month.
Byron took advantage of a restart to beat Larson at Phoenix Raceway last week, following his win one week earlier at Las Vegas.
FREE TO BE DENNY
NASCAR also penalized Denny Hamlin 25 points and a $50,000 fine for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on last week's final lap at Phoenix. Hamlin posted on his Twitter account that he plans to appeal the penalties, which came after he acknowledged on his podcast his intent to wreck Chastain.
Hamlin tweeted the contact with Chastain was "common, hard racing."
Hamlin said Saturday he'll continue to tell the truth despite many believing it was his admission, not his action, that brought on the penalties.
"I'm always going to continue to be me," Hamlin said, adding he likes the idea of inviting Chastain to join him on the podcast.
"It'd be good to have an open, honest conversation," he said, adding the two have talked. Hamlin said he believes the dispute with Chastain has been settled and won't continue on the track.
When asked why he believes the feud is over, Hamlin said "just taking each other's word."