NASCAR Hammers Hamlin Team For Indy Violations

Denny Hamlin

NASCAR issued severe penalties Tuesday to Denny Hamlin and his team for infractions discovered after last weekend's Brickyard 400. (Photo: Getty Images)

NASCAR issued its harshest penalties under its new deterrence system Tuesday at Denny Hamlin and his team for violations discovered after last weekend’s Brickyard 400.

NASCAR docked Hamlin 75 points, suspended crew chief Darian Grubb six races, fined him $125,000 and placed him on probation for the next six months. NASCAR also suspended car chief Wesley Sherrill six races and placed him on probation for six months. J.D. Gibbs also lost 75 car owner points. 

This is the first time NASCAR has issued a P5 penalty in the Sprint Cup Series. There’s only one level more severe in NASCAR’s six-level penalty structure. A P5 penalty includes violations that affect the normal airflow over the body.

Joe Gibbs Racing announced it plans to appeal the penalties but that Grubb and Sherrill would begin serving their penalties. The team did not announce a replacement for Grubb. 

Suspensions can be deferred until the completion of the appeal process but by having Grubb and Sherrill begin serving their suspensions now, they’re set to return for the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway even if they lose the appeal.

NASCAR announced after last weekend’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that it had issues with “several rear firewall block-off plates” on Hamlin’s third-place car and that the pieces would be taken to the Research and Development Center. 

NASCAR stated that what it discovered in Hamlin’s car violated numerous sections of the rule book.           

The infractions include:

Section 20-2.1 - Car body must be acceptable to NASCAR officials and meet the following requirements:

K – Any device or ductwork that permits air to pass from one area of the interior of the car to another, or to the outside of the car, will not be permitted. This includes, but is not limited to, the inside of the car to the trunk area, or the floors, firewalls, crush panels and wheel wells passing air into or out of the car;

L – All seams of the interior sheet metal and all interior sheet metal to exterior sheet metal contact point must be sealed and caulked. This includes, but is not limited to, floors, firewalls, wheel wells, package trays, crush panels and any removable covers;

20-3.4 - All references to the inspection surface in sub-section 20-3.4 have been determined with the front lower edge of both main frame rails set at six inches and the rear lower edge of both main frame rails set at eight inches. For driver protection, all firewalls, floors, tunnels, and access panels must be installed and completely secured in place when the car is in competition; 

20-3.4.5 - A rear firewall, including any removable panels or access doors, constructed using magnetic sheet steel a minimum of 22 gage (0.031 inch thick), must be located between the trunk area and the driver’s compartment and must be welded in place. Block-off plates/covers used in rear firewalls in place of blowers, oil coolers, etc., must be constructed of 22 gage (0.031 inch thick) magnetic sheet steel. Block-off plates/covers must be installed with positive fasteners and sealed to prevent air leakage. Carbon fiber or aluminum block-off plates/covers will not be permitted.

Because the infractions were discovered after the race they were increased from the normal P5 levels.

The penalty drops Hamlin from 11th to 21st in the points heading into this weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway. He remains ahead of race winners Aric Almirola (22nd) and 

Kurt Busch (25th). Any driver with a win who is in the top 30 in points and attempts to qualify for each race is eligible for the Chase. There have been 11 different winners with six races remaining until the Chase begins. 

Once JGR files a written notice to the NASCAR Appeals Administrator and pays a $500 fee, a date will be set for a hearing before the National Motorsports Appeals Panel. NASCAR has the burden of showing the violation of the rules to the three-member panel. If NASCAR loses, it cannot appeal. If JGR loses, it can appeal to the Final Appeals Officer, who is Bryan Moss. His decision is final.

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