RICHMOND, Va. – It took a little more than 24 hours for Denny Hamlin’s euphoria to turn sour.
On Sunday night at Darlington Raceway, one of the most important tracks to the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Hamlin won the Bojangles’ Southern 500 to complete a sweep of the NASCAR XFINITY Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at the Lady in Black.
But on Monday afternoon, Hamlin began to hear rumblings that all might not be right with his race-winning car, which NASCAR had taken to its R&D center for detailed inspection.
“I heard something on Monday or so – I think later on Monday or early Tuesday – that it was questionable, that it needed further review,” Hamlin said. “As far as I understand, my crew chief (Mike Wheeler) went and saw it for himself on Wednesday. He deemed it not right (outside NASCAR’s rules). So I would agree with the assessment.”
The rear suspension violation cost Hamlin five playoff points. He also lost Wheeler’s services for two races. What’s more, Hamlin’s winning Xfinity Series was penalized for the same problem. And a wonderful weekend at Darlington had suddenly lost much of its luster.
“I know personally it had nothing to do with winning the races,” Hamlin said of the infraction. “I’d won five other races at that track well before that. I’d love to line ’em up again. That track is special to me. It was a special weekend all in all. It took something that was super positive and turned it into a negative pretty quick.”
But Hamlin also said the penalty was appropriate, and if NASCAR decides in the future to take wins away from cars that are out of compliance, Hamlin is on board with that, too.
“Yeah, I think it fits,” Hamlin said of the penalty. “I think we can talk about taking wins away in the future. I think it’s definitely a possibility… as long as it’s the same for everyone, I think that’s key. Make sure that when someone else is in there with the same violation, it gets the same penalty and treatment, even if it’s in the playoffs.”