Denny Hamlin will lose 75 points after NASCAR found issues with his car in post-race inspection after the Brickyard 400. He'll also lose the services of crew chief Darian Grubb, who was suspended for six races and fined $125,000.
After the race, NASCAR announced that it had found issues with the rear firewall block-off plates in Hamlin's car. It's a P5 level penalty on NASCAR's new penalty chart which says a P5 penalty includes "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)."
Hamlin finished third at Indianapolis.
According to the penalty release from NASCAR, the penalty violates many rules, including the always applicable "actions detrimental to stock car racing."
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.
In addition to Grubb, car chief Wesley Sherrill was also suspended for six races. There are six races remaining before the Chase, so both are slated to miss the rest of the regular season. If JGR appeals, it will likely do so if it feels it has a case that will reduce the appeal substantially. There's no point appealing for the sake of appealing and having the suspensions extend into the Chase, which Hamlin will still be in because this penalty doesn't impact his Chase chances barring a monumental collapse.
With the penalty, Hamlin falls to 22nd in the points standings and still well within the top-30 Chase cutoff. Because of his win at Talladega, Hamlin is virtually guaranteed to make the Chase. With one more repeat winner over the next six races, that virtual guarantee becomes official. In short, when it comes to Hamlin's championship hopes, the penalty isn't all that impactful.
The P5 penalty calls for a loss of 50 points and fines of $75,000, but since the infractions were found after the race, the penalties are upped 25 points and $50,000. It's the first P5 penalty since NASCAR introduced the new penalty system at the beginning of the year.
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