Denny Hamlin’s Darlington Sweep Ruled as Encumbered

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

Penalty day in NASCAR has come following the race weekend at Darlington Raceway and this week’s penalty announcement is a doozy, with drivers from both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series feeling the wrath of the sanctioning body.

Denny Hamlin made headlines across the sport with his sweep of both races on the historic track, including a monster comeback in Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500, but now both of those wins have been ruled as encumbered by NASCAR due to issues found with the rear suspension on both his No. 11 Cup Series car and his No. 18 Xfinity Series car.

As a result, crew chief Mike Wheeler (Cup) and Eric Phillips (Xfinity) have been suspended from the next two races and fined $50,000 and $25,000, respectively. Hamlin’s Cup team was also docked 25 owner and driver points, while the Xfinity team had 25 owner points taken away.

Hamlin already had his place in the Cup playoffs secure with a win at New Hampshire, but the loss of the playoff points from his Darlington win will sting heading into the postseason.

Likewise, the second place finisher in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, Joey Logano, also was served with an encumbered finish due to issues found with the rear suspension. His Xfinity crew chief, Greg Irwin, will miss the next two races and was fined $25,000. The team also had 25 owner points taken away.

Along with the encumbered finishes for Hamlin and Logano, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also received a penalty from Darlington as two lug nuts on his No. 88 Chevrolet were found to be loose. As a result, crew chief Greg Ives was fined $20,000 and suspended from this weekend’s regular season finale at Richmond.

Hendrick Motorsports announced that they will not appeal the penalty and car chief Travis Mack will serve as Earnhardt’s crew chief on Saturday night.

“We have a tremendous amount of confidence in Travis and everyone on the team,” said Jeff Andrews, vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports. “Our people have done a great job all year with the lug nut rule. We won’t dwell on it (the penalty) and will look forward to having Greg back on the box next week at Chicagoland.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.