NASCAR officials said Monday that no penalty would be issued to the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team after a review of a late-race situation in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff event at Martinsville Speedway.
Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday morning that officials would review a contest for position between Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin (No. 11 team) and Erik Jones (No. 20 team) in the closing laps of Sunday’s Xfinity 500 for potential playoff implications.
Hamlin finished 11th — one spot ahead of Jones — and qualified for the field of four championship finalists in Sunday’s season finale.
“After conducting a review of the on-track competition and 20 team radio communication from Sunday’s race at Martinsville, NASCAR will not issue any penalties to the 20 team,” a statement read.
Jones, in his next-to-last race with Joe Gibbs Racing, made repeated contact with his teammate’s bumper as the laps ticked down. Rick Carelli, spotter for Jones and the No. 20 JGR team, told his driver, “Don’t pass him, Jones. Stay with him and drive what you can.” Hamlin’s 11th-place finish — just a few car-lengths ahead of his teammate — was enough to claim a Championship 4 berth on the basis of points.
Joe Gibbs Racing competition director Wally Brown said Monday that there was no “team orders” directive that governed how the four-car organization’s drivers competed against each other.
“It’s just not the way we race,” Brown said. “Obviously if you listen to that whole transcript, there was a lot of talk about point implications across the board from multiple teams. Let’s face it, I mean, at that point in time, Denny was not going to let him around. They probably would have crashed if they would have tried to. … The stakes are high. You’re not going to give up those spots, you’re going to do everything you can.”
Chris Gabehart, crew chief for Hamlin’s No. 11, said that the contest was “just racing,” noting in the previous week’s race at Texas Motor Speedway that Busch did not let up for teammate Martin Truex Jr., who finished a close second as he chased a win and an automatic Championship 4 spot.
“I can certainly tell you where Martinsville was concerned, Erik was doing plenty of what he was needed to do to the 11’s back bumper to try to get by him,” Gabehart said. “If there were some sort of team orders on, he wouldn’t have been beating our back bumper. I think Denny was very determined to not get passed, he knew how important it was, he was very difficult to pass, and that’s how it played out.”