|Hamlin leads at Indy. Was it because NASCAR deemed them to be cheating?|
In recent years there has been a general theory in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing that said any time, during the course of a post race inspection, that NASCAR tech officials deemed it necessary to confiscate parts from a race car for further evaluation it meant big trouble for the race team.
Big trouble for Joe Gibbs Racing, (JGR), came late on the afternoon of July 29th when NASCAR announced penalties against JGR's #11 team, driven by Denny Hamlin. These penalties stemmed from a post race inspection, following the July 27th Sprint Cup event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Post race inspection procedures led NASCAR tech officials to believe there may be a possible issue regarding the rear firewall block off plates on the car. Specifically that concern was based on whether or not these plates were properly sealed. If it turned out that the plates were not properly sealed, it could have created an additional source of air flow as well as a significant amount of additional rear down force in the car.
The questionable parts were confiscated by NASCAR and transported to Concord-North Carolina, the headquarters for NASCAR's Research and Development Center, where technical inspectors confirmed the suspicions of their colleagues at Indianapolis.
In the past, NASCAR has warned their teams that any form of alterations on their new race cars would not be tolerated. Also in the past, NASCAR has backed that warning with immediate action against any team who were caught violating the rule book.
In this particular case NASCAR dropped what can only be described as a penalty bomb on JGR. The penalties, announced in their July 29th official statement, were as follows:
"As a result of these violations, crew chief Darian Grubb has been fined $75,000 plus an additional $50,000 post-race fine for a total of $125,000. Grubb has also been suspended from NASCAR for the next six series championship events, plus any non-championship races or special events that might occur during that time period. Grubb will also be on NASCAR probation for the next six months."
"Car chief Wesley Sherrill has been suspended from NASCAR for the next six series championship events, plus any non-championship races or special events that might occur during that time period and will be on NASCAR probation for the next six months."
"This infraction has also cost the No. 11 team the loss of 50 championship driver and owner (Denny Hamlin and J.D. Gibbs) points plus an additional 25 post-race points for a total loss of 75 championship driver and 75 championship owner points."
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Later, that same day, the race team issued the following statement:
"Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is aware of the penalty issued by NASCAR today regarding the #11 team's post-race inspection infraction following Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race in Indianapolis. JGR will plan to appeal the penalty, however, crew chief Darian Grubb and car chief Wesley Sherrill will begin to serve their suspensions starting this weekend in Pocono."
The JGR statement has raised more than a few eyebrows. Many are already wondering why they would appeal the monetary value, and the loss of points, but allow their crew chief and car chief to immediately begin their suspensions.
Actually this move is rather brilliant. It's also a reflection of team owner Joe Gibbs, and team President J D Gibb's, well known ability to remain calm in the face of adversity.
Their willingness to allow Darian Grubb and Wesley Sherrill to immediately begin their suspensions means they will be eligible to return to their respective duties in time for the race at the Chicagoland Speedway on September 14th. That particular event is, of course, race number one of the ten race series for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship. Despite the loss of 75 championship driver points, this team is virtually guaranteed a starting berth in the Chase line up based on Hamlin's win at Talladega last May.
If JGR would have included both men in their official appeals process the effect could have been potentially devastating. If the Appeals Board ruled against JGR, the time consuming process of the procedure would have meant that Grubb and Sherrill would have missed the majority of the Chase events at a point in time when their services would be seriously needed.
That's why excluding these two men from the appeals process is such a brilliant move.