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Gustafson: Penalties for No. 11 team 'huge'

July 30, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Crew chief for Jeff Gordon chimes in on punishment

RELATED: Full penalty coverage

Alan Gustafson says he doesn't know much about the penalties handed down Tuesday to the No. 11 team for Joe Gibbs Racing and driver Denny Hamlin, but he does know the severity of the penalties can't be overstated.

"I don't know enough about what happened," Gustafson, crew chief for Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon, said during a national teleconference on Wednesday. "I don't want to comment about what happened because I don't have enough information. … What I know is too vague.

"As far as the severity of it, yeah, anytime you see those kinds of penalties, it's like, 'Wow, that's huge.' It gets your attention; it's something you definitely think about."

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Hamlin and his team were stripped of 75 driver and owner points, while crew chief Darian Grubb and car chief Wesley Sherrill were suspended for six races, for issues discovered in a post-race inspection of the car following Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Grubb was also fined $125,000.

JGR officials have said they will appeal the penalties, although Grubb and Sherrill will begin serving their suspensions immediately. If the penalties stand, the two would not be allowed to return to the track until NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series travels to Chicagoland Speedway for the opening race of this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, scheduled for Sept. 14.

NASCAR officials said there were issues with block-off plates inside the No. 11 car, which is a safety violation and could also allow air to travel outside and create an aerodynamic advantage. The infraction was deemed a P5-level penalty, which carries a 50-point loss and fines of $75,000 to $125,000, as well as a six-week suspension for the acting crew chief and any other team members determined by NASCAR.

Because the infraction was discovered post-race, the team was stripped of an additional 25 points and the fine increased an additional $50,000.

According to JGR officials, team engineer Mike Wheeler will serve as interim crew chief in Grubb's absence.

"I think for someone to say that it has no impact or is not severe enough, that's crazy," Gustafson said. "I think it's very significant. This is my livelihood, it's Darian's livelihood. I can't imagine being told you can't do it for six weeks, how you have to handle that, deal with that and what (repercussions) that creates."

Gustafson is a 17-time winner as a crew chief in the Sprint Cup Series. Sunday's Brickyard win was his second of the season with Gordon, and the eighth overall since the two were paired together in 2011 at Hendrick Motorsports. He also has been the winning crew chief for drivers Mark Martin and Kyle Busch.

The loss of points dropped Hamlin from 11th to 21st in the standings; because he has a win (at Talladega earlier this year), he is virtually assured of earning one of the 16 available positions in this year's Chase field.

"Fortunately for me, I've never had to go through that," Gustafson said of the JGR penalties. "I don't want to ever have to go through that.

"I think at the end of the day, people's livelihood is at stake … this is how we make our living…  and what we put a huge amount of effort into.

"To say that's insignificant, I definitely disagree with that."

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