Denny Hamlin crew members banned 4 races after piece of tungsten falls off car

Three members of Denny Hamlin’s crew are facing a stiff penalty after a mistake during Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

A piece of tungsten fell off Hamlin’s car during the the pace lap prior to Sunday’s race in Charlotte, triggering an automatic four-race suspension for crew chief Chris Gabehar, car chief Brandon Griffeth and engineer Scott Simmons.

The 35-pound piece of tungsten was placed on the car so it could meet minimum weight requirements set by NASCAR. Hamlin had to pit after it fell off to have additional weight added to the car. He didn’t join the race until eight laps had been completed and finished 29th out of 40 cars.

A mistake triggered a four-race ban for three members of Denny Hamlin's crew. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
A mistake triggered a four-race ban for three members of Denny Hamlin's crew. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Suspension stands despite in-race correction

Despite the pit stop to conform to regulations, the suspensions still stand per NASCAR rules calling for an automatic four-race ban when the tungsten ballast becomes separated from the car at any point during the race. Joe Gibbs Racing is not appealing the suspensions, according to the Associated Press.

Former JGR crew chief Cole Pearn told NASCAR’s Twitter on Monday that he believes rustiness from the COVID-19 layoff played a role in the mistake.

‘These guys have zero routine’

“I think it’s just a product of these guys not being in a routine,” Pearn said. “I don’t think we can play down the fact that putting these race cars together and not having something fall off — not having something not break each week — just how hard that is to do.

“A lot of time, the thing that saves you is routine. These guys have zero routine right now.”

The suspended crew members will miss races in Charlotte, Bristol, Atlanta and Martinsville scheduled from Wednesday through June 10 as NASCAR looks to squeeze in events after the 10-week COVID-19 layoff.

Sam McAulay, Eric Phillips and Scott Eldridge will replace the banned crew members during those races. Hamlin won the Daytona 500 in February and is in eighth place in the NASCAR Cup standings.

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