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Wheeler steps in as No. 11 interim crew chief

July 31, 2014, Staff report,

Wheeler will start at Pocono, where Hamlin has won four times

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Mike Wheeler has been named interim crew chief of Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 11 Toyota, starting this weekend at Pocono Raceway in place of the suspended Darian Grubb.

Wheeler, a team engineer who joined the Gibbs organization before the 2003 season, will call the shots for Denny Hamlin in Sunday's 400 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN) while Grubb begins serving a six-race suspension as part of the team's P5 penalty for infractions found in a post-race inspection the previous weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


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JGR officials said Wednesday that Wheeler, a native of Southold, N.Y., would be the No. 11 interim crew chief, a move confirmed Thursday morning with a revision to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry list for Pocono. Wheeler also indicated via Twitter that former car chief Chris "Spider" Gillin -- listed on his Twitter bio as JGR's power train development manager -- will be back on the road to offer assistance this weekend. 

NASCAR officials served Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 11 team with the heaviest penalties issued thus far under the new deterrence system, which was implemented in the offseason. In addition to Grubb's six-race ban, NASCAR officials docked the team 75 points in both the car owner and drivers' standings and fined Grubb $125,000. Officials also suspended car chief Wesley Sherrill for six races and placed him and Grubb on NASCAR probation for six months. 

Pocono ranks among Hamlin's best tracks. Of his 24 career Sprint Cup wins, four have come at the Tricky Triangle. His Pocono victory total is matched only by his four wins at Martinsville Speedway.


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