DARLINGTON, S.C. — The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the NASCAR Xfinity Series failed post-race inspection after Saturday’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway.
NASCAR disallowed Denny Hamlin’s apparent victory at the 1.366-mile track after the No. 18 entry failed a pair of height requirements, ruled too low in the left front and too high in the right rear.
Saturday’s victory was awarded to Cole Custer, who initially appeared to settle for second place at Darlington for the second straight year. Custer said he realized the finishing order was being revised after his crew chief called him “standing like 15 feet away from me,” to say that the No. 18 car had been dropped to last place.
“It’s crazy. It’s a way to win it. It’s a strange way to win it,” Custer told NASCAR.com in the Xfinity Series garage after news of the disqualification seeped out. “I wish I would’ve been able to pass him. Him being low isn’t why he won that race. At the same time, that’s the rules we live by and everybody has the same deal. Everybody’s been bit by it at some point, so it’s cool. We get to have some more playoff points and this is the momentum that we needed.”
The disqualification is the first of an Xfinity Series race winner since an updated deterrence system was put in place at the start of the season. The only other disqualification of an apparent winner in a NASCAR national series race this year came in June, when Ross Chastain’s Niece Motorsports No. 44 entry was demoted from first place at Iowa Speedway.
The disqualification is the fourth in the Xfinity Series this season. Christopher Bell’s third-place finish in the JGR No. 20 was thrown out at Chicagoland in late June, and AJ Allmendinger’s Kaulig Racing entry was disqualified from third place at Daytona in July then again from second place at Watkins Glen a month later.
“I think you’ve got to look at the garage area,” said Xfinity Series director Wayne Auton, when asked about the recent rise in violations as the regular season winds down. “I think we’ve still got five weeks to go before we get a break, we’re in the middle of a 15-week stretch and the playoffs are coming, and everybody’s pushing everything they can to get that little bit they can to win the race. I can’t sit here and say all the dynamics of the 18 car because they have until Monday at 12 o’clock to appeal, but today they were found low.”