NASCAR has suspended Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Darian Grubb for six races after this weekend’s race at Indy. Grubb is the crew chief for the No. 11 Toyota driven by Denny Hamlin; the team finished third. In post-race inspection NASCAR found unapproved changes to the firewall inside the car. The parts were confiscated and taken to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center.
Tuesday NASCAR announced their findings. Under a new penalty system put in place this year. The infraction is a P5 level penalty which 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).
This infraction violates Sections:
12-1 - Actions detrimental to stock car racing;
20-2.1 – Car body must be acceptable to NASCAR officials and meet the following requirements:
• K – Any device or ductwork that permits air to pass from one area of the interior of the car to another, or to the outside of the car, will not be permitted. This includes, but is not limited to, the inside of the car to the trunk area, or the floors, firewalls, crush panels and wheel wells passing air into or out of the car;
• L – All seams of the interior sheet metal and all interior sheet metal to exterior sheet metal contact point must be sealed and caulked. This includes, but is not limited to, floors, firewalls, wheel wells, package trays, crush panels and any removable covers;
20-3.4 - All references to the inspection surface in sub-section 20-3.4 have been determined with the front lower edge of both main frame rails set at six inches and the rear lower edge of both main frame rails set at eight inches. For driver protection, all firewalls, floors, tunnels, and access panels must be installed and completely secured in place when the car is in competition;
20-3.4.5 - A rear firewall, including any removable panels or access doors, constructed using magnetic sheet steel a minimum of 22 gage (0.031 inch thick), must be located between the trunk area and the driver’s compartment and must be welded in place. Block-off plates/covers used in rear firewalls in place of blowers, oil coolers, etc., must be constructed of 22 gage (0.031 inch thick) magnetic sheet steel. Block-off plates/covers must be installed with positive fasteners and sealed to prevent air leakage. Carbon fiber or aluminum block-off plates/covers will not be permitted.
Per Section 12-4.5 B, the minimum P5 penalty includes:
• Loss of 50 championship driver and owner points, regardless of whether the violation occurred during a championship race or not;
• $75,000 to $125,000 fine;
• Suspension for the next six series championship races, plus any non-championship races or special events which might occur during that period, for the crew chief and any other team members as determined by NASCAR;
• Probation through the end of the calendar year for all suspended members, or for a six-month period following the issuance of the penalty notice if that period spans across two consecutive season.
Since this infraction is a P5 level penalty and was discovered in post-race inspection, Section 12-4.5 C (1,2) also applies:
• If the infraction is detected during post-race inspection, then the following penalty elements will be added:
o Loss of an additional 25 championship driver and owner points; regardless of whether it was a championship race or not;
o Loss of an additional $50,000.
As a result of the violations, crew chief Grubb was 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, plus any non-championship races or special events that might occur during that time period. Grubb will also be on NASCAR probation for the next six months.
Car chief Wesley Sherrill has been suspended from NASCAR for the next six series championship events, plus any non-championship races or special events that might occur during that time period and will be on NASCAR probation for the next six months.
This infraction has also cost the No. 11 team the loss of 50 championship driver and owner (Denny Hamlin and J.D. Gibbs) points plus an additional 25 post-race points for a total loss of 75 championship driver and 75 championship owner points.
Shortly after Tuesday's announcement, Joe Gibbs Racing issued a brief statement saying it plans to appeal the penalties, but Grubb and Sherrill would begin serving their suspensions this weekend.
"Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is aware of the penalty issued by NASCAR today regarding the #11 team's post-race inspection infraction following Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race in Indianapolis," the team said in the statement. "JGR will plan to appeal the penalty, however, crew chief Darian Grubb and car chief Wesley Sherrill will begin to serve their suspensions starting this weekend in Pocono."
The appeal will be heard before a three-person National Motorsports Appeals Panel at a date to be confirmed. Should JGR not be successful in its appeal, both would return to the track in time for the Sept. 14 race at Chicagoland Speedway, the first event in the Chase.