Whirlwind day after Pocono: JGR won’t appeal, NASCAR reveals what infraction was, and Elliott won’t be celebrating

LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA - JULY 24: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&Ms Toyota, and Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series M&M's Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 24, 2022 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Never has a race at Pocono Raceway caused so much turmoil, and discussion the following day.

Joe Gibbs Racing admitted Monday they had made a mistake and said they would not appeal Sunday’s double disqualifications at Pocono Raceway.

JGR driver Denny Hamlin, who initially won the race, and fellow JGR driver Kyle Busch who came in second, had both cars disqualified after issues were found in post-race inspection. That gave the win to the third-place finisher, Chase Elliott.

It was the first time since 1960 a driver had race win taken away.

Sunday night, NASCAR had to be somewhat vague as to what the issue for the DQ was since the team could still file an appeal.

“Yeah, unfortunately we were doing our post-race inspections, which we do,” said NASCAR Cup Series managing director Brad Moran Sunday night. “There were some issues discovered that affect aero of the vehicle. The part was the front fascia. 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.”

The deadline for the team to appeal was noon Monday, and that passed without any word from JGR. At 2:00 p.m. eastern, NASCAR released a statement saying,” the deadline has passed. No appeal requested by the Nos. 11 and 18 teams.”

Just over two and a half hours later, Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior VP of competition appeared on SiriusXM radio and explained what had happened. Part of what happened is the new Next Gen car and the inspection that goes along with it.

“I want everybody to kind of know this is a new world of inspection,” Miller said. “This is not akin to a big engine, or soaked tires, or anything like this. This is more about the integrity of what was agreed on between NASCAR and the teams and protecting the integrity of the Next Gen inspection process.”

Miller also confirmed what the material was.

“It was on the lower fascia, it was extra layers of vinyl that in effect deviated the part from the approved CAD files,” Miller said. “That’s what it was.”

Miller was asked if the extra vinyl could give cars an added aero advantage.

“It’s speculation on our part, but yes, that would be what we would think,” Miller said. “We do aerodynamic testing alone, but we don’t do development aerodynamic testing, which is what it would take to find those sensitive areas of the nose and try to get everything you can out of it.”

He also added that the materiel would not have fallen outside the tolerances for pre-race laser inspection, and they were surprised to find it post-race.

“It’s standard procedure for post-race inspection to peel vinyl off parts of the car that we feel are critical,” Miller said. “No, we had no inclination prior that there was anything there and we’re very surprised at what we found.”

Shortly after JGR released a statement attributed to the team’s director of competition, Wally Brown:

“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 fascia ahead of the left-front and right-front wheel openings on both those cars. The added pieces were 2 inches wide and 5 ½ 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.”

Toyota followed up with its own statement from David Wilson, group VP of Toyota Racing Development:

“Toyota and TRD are disappointed with the disqualifications that came at the end of Sunday’s Pocono Cup Series race. However, as we’ve stated 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 #11 and the #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 effort to keep the playing field fair for everyone competing in the series.”

When the dust settled, Chase Elliott had been gifted his fourth win of the season. Monday morning, he did his post-race “winners” conference via Zoom and said he learned of the disqualifications Sunday night after landing in Georgia after the race.

“I was probably just kind of more surprised by it than anything,” Elliott said. “I don’t think any driver wants to win that way. I certainly don’t.”

He added that he still felt like he’d finished third and wasn’t about to ask for the trophy.

“I’m not going to celebrate someone’s misfortune,” he said. “That doesn’t seem right to me. I crossed the line third. That’s kind of how I’m looking at it.”

Greg Engle