Elliott suspended for one race; Hendrick taps Corey Lajoie for replacement

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 29: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota, spins after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2023 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images)

That didn’t take long. Tuesday NASCAR suspended driver Chase Elliott for the next NASCAR Cup series race after officials ruled Elliott intentionally crashed Denny Hamlin on Lap 186 of Monday’s rescheduled Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Elliott turned left into Hamlin’s right-rear quarter panel and sent the No. 11 Toyota head-on into the outside SAFER barrier on the front straightaway after a squeeze from Hamlin led Elliott to brush the wall at the exit of Turn 4.

Monday’s incident was similar to a move made by Bubba Wallace on Kyle Larson during the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last year that ended with both cars crash and later led to a one race suspension for Wallace that many felt set a precedent for the Hamlin-Elliott incident.

The suspension means Elliott will miss his seventh race of the 2023 season. The 2020 Cup champion suffered a broken left leg in a snowboarding accident in March, sidelining him for six races until his return on April 16 at Martinsville Speedway. Josh Berry filled in for the five oval events Elliott missed, scoring a career-best second-place finish on April 2 at Richmond Raceway. Jordan Taylor made his Cup debut as Elliott’s substitute at Circuit of The Americas, where he qualified fourth and finished 24th.

Tuesday Hendrick Motorsports said they will not appeal the penalty and that Corey LaJoie, 31, will drive the No. 9 Chevrolet this weekend:

“We understand NASCAR’s need to maintain consistency in its officiating. The penalty will not be appealed, and we will submit a formal request for a playoff waiver.

Corey LaJoie, 31, will drive the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. We are grateful to Corey for stepping in and to the team at Spire Motorsports for making him available.”

Spires Motorsports said they have tapped Carson Hocevar to replace LaJoie Sunday. Hocevar will be making his NASCAR Cup debut.


Also on the weekly report:

Front Row Motorsports’ No. 34 team was also penalized after Monday’s race when the right-front tire detached from the vehicle at Lap 344, a violation detailed in Sections in the NASCAR Rule Book, pertaining to loss or separation of an improperly installed tire/wheel from the vehicle. NASCAR suspended front-tire changer Scott Brzozowski and jackman Adam Lewis for the next two races.

In the Xfinity Series, Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Jeff Meendering was fined $5,000 after the No. 18 Toyota was found with one lug nut not securely fastened following Monday’s Alsco Uniforms 300. The penalty falls under Sections in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rule Book, which states, “all tire(s)/wheel(s) and all five lug nuts must be installed in a safe and secure manner during the event.”

Additionally, the No. 74 CHK Racing team was docked 10 owners points while driver Dawson Cram was docked 10 driver points. Officials cited Sections & H of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rule Book for the penalty, addressing the quarter window and NASCAR-mandated NACA duct and outlet hose that must be used at all ovals 1.33 miles and longer.

Derek Hartnagel, truck chief for the No. 43 GMS Racing team, was issued an indefinite suspension. The penalty report references Sections 4.1 and 10.1.A of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rule Book, which addresses NASCAR’s substance abuse policy and actions detrimental to stock car racing or NASCAR, respectively.


Greg Engle