NASCAR hits JGR's No. 11 with 75-point penalty
July 29, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
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NASCAR handed down heavy penalties to the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 team Tuesday for infractions found in a post-race inspection after Denny Hamlin drove to a third-place finish in last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
NASCAR stripped the team of 75 points in the series' owner championship standings and docked Hamlin 75 points in the drivers' standings. The team also suspended crew chief Darian Grubb for the next six Sprint Cup events and fined him $125,000. Car chief Wesley Sherrill was also issued a six-race suspension; both Grubb and Sherrill will be on NASCAR probation for the next six months.
The most recent penalty falls under the heading of a P5-class infraction, according to the new NASCAR deterrence system. It is the most severe punishment issued under the new penalty structure, implemented during the offseason.
Joe Gibbs Racing said in a statement that it planned to appeal the penalty, but that Grubb and Sherrill would begin serving their suspensions immediately, starting with this weekend's event at Pocono Raceway.
The punishment moves Hamlin from 11th to 21st in the Sprint Cup standings. Though he missed a race earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway with an eye injury, Hamlin remains a virtual lock for a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, thanks to his regular-season victory in May at Talladega Superspeedway.
In a statement announcing the ruling, NASCAR officials said the No. 11 Toyota violated four different sections of the NASCAR rule book, three pertaining to the body of the car -- specifically the sealing and securing of all sheet metal and firewalls -- and one for "actions detrimental to stock car racing." The rule book calls for a minimum of a 50-point penalty and $75,000 fine for a P5-level infraction, but an additional 25-point deduction and $50,000 fine were assessed because the violations were discovered during post-race inspection.
A NASCAR spokesperson announced the findings of the initial post-race inspection after Sunday's Crown Royal presents the John Wayne Walding 400, saying there were "possible issues with several rear firewall block-off plates." If the block-off plates became detached during the race, it could allow air to flow from inside the car and potentially create more downforce.
After Sunday's 400-miler, officials took the No. 11 car back to the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina for further investigation. Officials also took the race-winning Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon and the JGR No. 18 Toyota of runner-up Kyle Busch back to the R&D Center for routine evaluation; no at-track issues were found on the top two finishing cars.