Denny Hamlin will enter the postseason with two trophies but less than the requisite amount of playoff points. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s No. 11 Toyota failed a post-victory inspection from Darlington Raceway, prompting NASCAR to “encumber” the win and strip him of the five playoff points he would have taken into each round of the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as he advanced.
The violation was the same that was caught by NASCAR inspectors after Joey Logano’s win at Richmond Raceway on April 30, though the driver has insisted it did not improve the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. Hamlin’s July 16 victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will still qualify him for the playoffs, while Logano returns to Richmond this weekend for the final race of the regular season in need of another win to avoid a highly unexpected playoff miss.
Hamlin crew chief Mike Wheeler was fined $50,000 and suspended for two races. The No. 11 team was docked 25 driver points, while Joe Gibbs Racing lost 25 owner points. According to NASCAR, Hamlin’s truck trailing arm, truck trailing arm spacer and pinion angle shim were not in a plane and “in complete contact with the corresponding mating surfaces at all times.”
The cars of both Hamlin and Logano also failed inspection with similar infractions after finishing first and second, respectively, in the Xfinity Series race at Darlington on Saturday. Crew chiefs Eric Phillips (Hamlin) and Greg Erwin (Logano) were each fined $25,000 and suspended from two races.
In another penalty, Dale Earnhardt Jr. crew chief Greg Ives was fined $20,000 and suspended for one race when the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was found to have two loose lug nuts on its right rear after the Darlington Cup race.
Hendrick Motorsports said in a release that it will not appeal. Travis Mack, will serve as interim crew chief at Richmond Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network) in Earnhardt's last bid to win a race and make the playoffs in his final season as a fulltime Cup Series driver.
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