Denny Hamlin and the #11 Fed-Ex Toyota team has been penalized for a rules infraction that was discovered during the post-race inspection after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event held on Sunday, July 27, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The #11 team violated several parts of the rulebook that pertains to the rear firewall, in particular, the one that said: ‘Block-off plates/covers must be installed with positive fasteners and sealed to prevent air leakage.’
Prior to Indianapolis teams had been leaving the covers on the rear firewall loose in order to leak high pressure air from under the car into the cockpit. NASCAR informed the teams they would have to tape up the openings and stop that practice.
The block-off plates are intended to seal the driver’s compartment to keep smoke, fire and hot fluids from getting to the driver for safety. Having air-flow through the block-off plates could essentially help the car’s aerodynamics during a race. Missing or loose covers could vent the driver compartment and create more down-force for the car.
On Sunday, NASCAR confiscated several rear firewall block-off plates from Hamlin’s #11 Fed-Ex Express Toyota, for further inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center after Hamlin’s third place finish for the John Wayne Welding 400 at The Brickyard on Sunday.
The infraction is outlined in Section 12-4.5 A (9) of the 2014 NASCAR rule book: Approved parts that fail or are improperly installed to fail in their intended use of great importance (e.g.; rear wheel well panels that fail and allow air evacuation in the trunk area; oil box cover that fails and allows air evacuation in the driver compartment; shifter boot cover that fails and allows air evacuation through the floor pan.)
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, adding non-championship races and special events that occur during six series events. Grubb also received probation for six months.
Car chief Wesley Sherrill has been suspended from NASCAR for the next six series championship events, as well as any non-championship races or special events that occur during the six series events. Sherrill also has been placed on probation for six months.
Along with the penalties the #11 team has loss 50 championship driver (Hamlin) and 50 championship owner (J.D. Gibbs) points plus an additional 25 post-race points for a total loss of 75 championship driver (Hamlin) and 75 championship owner points.
In the old points system losing 75 championship points at this late in the game would be the end of Hamlin’s championship bid for the 2014 season, but with Hamlin’s victory at Talladega in May, it remains very much alive.
Hamlin will drop from 11th to 22nd in the standings, but realistically he remains in the top 30, the minimum requirement for any Chase drivers. And without crew chief Grubb, Hamlin surely will not drop to 31st.
Over all Hamlin will have Grubb and Sherrill back for the start of the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, September 14, and crew chiefs have been known to experiment at tracks. Hamlin’s car did not qualify well, and he told ESPN, he didn’t have enough airtime to list everything that was wrong with the car.
Except the monetary values applied by NASCAR, Hamlin is still eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, and crew chief Grubb could spend his suspension overseeing the building of the #11 Chase cars to be driven in the final 10 races.