Joe Gibbs Racing’s stellar 2-3-4 finish in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 now has a huge asterisk, as NASCAR on Tuesday afternoon levied a major penalty on third-place finisher Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 team following post-race inspection issues with several rear firewall block-off plates on Hamlin’s Toyota.
NASCAR issued a P5 level penalty against Hamlin and the team, stripping Hamlin and team owner Joe Gibbs of 75 driver and owner points, respectively, while suspending crew chief Darian Grubb and car chief Wesley Sherrill six races each, and fining Grubb $125,000.
Within minutes of Tuesday’s penalty announcement from NASCAR, Joe Gibbs Racing said in a team statement that the organization will appeal the penalty but that Grubb and Sherrill will begin serving their suspensions starting this weekend at Pocono Raceway. Both Grubb and Sherrill will be on NASCAR probation for the next six months.
Hamlin, who won in May at Talladega Superspeedway, remains solidly inside the top 30 in the standings and therefore in good shape to the make the Chase for the Sprint Cup despite falling from 11th to 21st in the standings with the loss of the 75 driver points.
The P5 level penalty is the stiffest NASCAR has issued under this year’s new six-tier deterrence system. Hamlin, who led 18 laps at Indianapolis, remains credited with a third-place finish — a small consolation prize, certainly, given the harsh nature of the penalty.
Here is the official NASCAR release on the penalties, in its entirety:
The No. 11 team that competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has been penalized for a rules infraction discovered in post-race inspection July 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
This infraction is a P5 level penalty which is outlined in Section 12-4.5 A (9) of the 2014 NASCAR rule book:
Approved parts that fail or are improperly installed to fail in their intended use of great importance (e.g.; rear wheel well panels that fail and allow air evacuation in the trunk area; oil box cover that fails and allows air evacuation in the driver compartment; shifter boot cover that fails and allows air evacuation through the floor pan).
This infraction violates Sections:
12-1 — Actions detrimental to stock car racing;
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.
Per Section 12-4.5 B, the minimum P5 penalty includes:
· Loss of 50 championship driver and owner points, regardless of whether the violation occurred during a championship race or not;
· $75,000 to $125,000 fine;
· Suspension for the next six series championship races, plus any non-championship races or special events which might occur during that period, for the crew chief and any other team members as determined by NASCAR;
· Probation through the end of the calendar year for all suspended members, or for a six-month period following the issuance of the penalty notice if that period spans across two consecutive seasons.
Since this infraction is a P5 level penalty and was discovered in post-race inspection, Section 12-4.5 C (1,2) also applies:
· If the infraction is detected during post-race inspection, then the following penalty elements will be added:
· Loss of an additional 25 championship driver and owner points; regardless of whether it was a championship race or not;
· Loss of an additional $50,000.
As a result of these violations, crew chief Darian Grubb has been fined $75,000 plus an additional $50,000 post-race fine for a total of $125,000. Grubb has also been suspended from NASCAR for the next six series championship events, plus any non-championship races or special events that might occur during that time period. Grubb will also be on NASCAR probation for the next six months.
Car chief Wesley Sherrill has been suspended from NASCAR for the next six series championship events, plus any non-championship races or special events that might occur during that time period and will be on NASCAR probation for the next six months.
This infraction has also cost the No. 11 team the loss of 50 championship driver and owner (Denny Hamlin and J.D. Gibbs) points plus an additional 25 post-race points for a total loss of 75 championship driver and 75 championship owner points.