NASCAR encumbers both of Hamlin’s Darlington wins, issues four crew chief suspensions

DARLINGTON, SC - SEPTEMBER 03: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Sport Clips Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 3, 2017 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

NASCAR handed down some severe penalties Wednesday to teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series as well as the NASCAR Xfinity series for infractions that occurred at Darlington last weekend.

The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team that won the Southern 500 was hit with an L1-level penalty for or violating sections 20.14.2 (rear suspension) of the NASCAR Rule Book.

Crew chief Mike Wheeler was fined $50,000 and suspended for two races, the team was assessed with the loss of 25 owner points and 25 driver points, and Denny Hamlin’s first-place finish was ruled encumbered per Section 12.10.

Hamlin also won at Loudon, and that finish was not encumbered so he is still eligible for NASCAR’s playoffs.

In addition, the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team was penalized for a safety violation for lug nuts not properly installed following Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s 22nd-place finish. Crew chief Greg Ives was fined $20,000 and suspended from the next race.

Hendrick Motorsports immediately issued a statement saying they will not appeal the penalty.  The team said Travis Mack, 34, will serve as interim crew chief for the No. 88 NASCAR Cup Series team with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. during this weekend’s event at Richmond Raceway. The Louisville, Kentucky, native has been the team’s car chief since 2015, serving under crew chief Greg Ives.

“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.”

Hamlin won both Cup and Xfinity races, a feat he also accomplished at Darlington in 2010, however unlike 2010, his Xfinity win was also ruled encumbered.

The L1-level penalty for the JGR Xfinity team was also for violating sections 20.14.2 (rear suspension). Crew chief Eric Phillips was fined $25,000 and suspended from two races, the team was assessed with the loss of 25 owner points in addition to Hamlin’s first-place finish being ruled encumbered.

Also in the Xfinity Series, the No. 22 Team Penske entry was given an L1-level penalty for violating sections 20.14.2 (rear suspension).  Crew chief Greg Irwin was fined $25,000 and suspended from two races, the team was assessed with the loss of 25 owner points, and Joey Logano’s second-place finish was ruled encumbered.

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