By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
A day removed from Sunday’s controversial M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono, Joe Gibbs Racing announced they won’t appeal the double disqualification involving Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
After their drivers crossed the line 1-2, NASCAR found issues on the front facia of both Toyota Camrys. It affected the aerodynamics which led the sanctioning body no choice but strip Hamlin and Busch from their top-two results.
Wally Brown, the team’s Director of Competition, issued the following statement regarding why they won’t appeal NASCAR’s decision:
“In our review of the post-race infractions on the 11 and 18 cars at Pocono it was discovered that a single piece of clear tape was positioned over each of the lower corners of the front facia ahead of the left-front and right-front wheel openings on both those cars,” Brown explained.
“The added pieces were two inches wide and five-and-a-half inches long with a thickness of 0.012 inches and installed under the wrap. This change in our build process was not properly vetted within our organization and we recognize it is against NASCAR’s rules.
“We apologize to everyone for this mistake, and we have made changes to our processes to ensure that it does not happen again.”
NASCAR Cup Series Managing Director Brad Moran spoke with the press explaining the issue they found that led to the first DQ that involved a winner since the sport implemented the rule in 2019.
“There really was no reason why there was some material that was somewhere it shouldn’t have been, and that does basically come down to a DQ,” said Moran. “It is a penalty, both for the 11 of Denny Hamlin and the 18 of Kyle Busch have been DQed. Their vehicles are being loaded in the NASCAR hauler. They’re going to go back to the R&D Center.”
Consequently, Hamlin and Busch were demoted to 35th and 36th respectively as Chase Elliott was declared the winner without leading a lap. Elliott’s win marks a series-leading fourth win and now leads the regular season standings by 105 points over Ross Chastain.
The current points leader found out he won after landing back from Pocono.
Elliott commented Monday that while the record books will list Pocono as his 17th career Cup Series win, there’s zero pride in celebrating the win.
“I was just surprised by that. Something I don’t really ever recall happening throughout the time I’ve watched NASCAR. I’ve certainly been a part of some situations like this over the course of my short track career, so I know it happens,” Elliott explained.
“It’s a complete shock but certainly on the Cup side, we’re not accustomed of seeing. Probably more surprised by it than anything.
“I don’t think any driver wants to win that way. I certainly don’t. I don’t know what went on because I’ve already left. Finished third and was trying to think about what we need to do better on the way home.”
With Hamlin’s bid at a seventh Pocono win having to wait another year, he became the first driver since Emanuel Zervakis at Wilson Speedway in 1960 to lose his Cup victory via DQ. Joe Weatherly, who crossed the line in second that year was given the victory.
Following the initial announcement, Hamlin made it known on Twitter that NASCAR better find a lucky charm if they’re planning to confiscate the checkered flag.
This was a result of a wholesome moment that saw Hamlin’s daughter Taylor grabbing the coveted flag. Traditionally, the checkered flag is given to the driver after winning the race where sometimes the driver would hand the flag to a young race fan.
Moran said Sunday that JGR’s penalty was appealable, but both Brown and TRD President David Wilson didn’t consider the option. Instead, they accepted the decision and assured such offence won’t happen again.
“Toyota and TRD are disappointed with the disqualifications that came at the end of Sunday’s Pocono Cup Series race,” said Wilson. “However, as we’ve stand throughout the Next Gen process, we applaud NASCAR’s hyper-vigilance when it comes to policing the rules on this new race car.
“We have been in close communication with Joe Gibbs Racing and they have acknowledged that the tape added to the front facia’s of the No. 11 and the No. 18 was not permissible by NASCAR’s rules.
“We stand by the team’s decision not to appeal the disqualifications and also continue to stand by NASCAR’s efforts to keep the playing field fair for everyone competing in the series.”
With the disqualification etched in stone, the focus shifts to the Brickyard. Live coverage of the second annual Verizon 200 commences Sunday, July 31 at 2:30 p.m. on NBC. AJ Allmendinger is the defending race winner.