Hot 20 – Hamlin Penalty Shows the Downside of Win and You’re In

Seventy five point penalty and nothing. No meaningful consequences, not even a dip in the standings. When Denny Hamlin’s car got tagged for leaving the covers on the rear firewall loose in order to leak high pressure air from under the car into the cockpit, something they were told not to do going into Indianapolis, NASCAR came down hard. Well, sort of.

Darian Grubb’s wallet is $125,000 lighter and the crew chief is gone until after Richmond. The same penalty was given to car chief Wesley Sherrill. A 75 point penalty would be crippling if not for that win in Talladega and his lock inside the Top 30 in points. With standings based first on wins, and then points, Hamlin was ninth and remains ninth, if only by just a point up on Aric Almirola and still 41 ahead of Kurt Busch. For a car that was running so slow in practice Grubb said he did not have enough air time to list its ailments, its sudden emergence to finish third on Sunday was a revelation. Sometimes, NASCAR is not big on revelations, especially after mandating that the one in this case had been specifically outlawed. It is enough to make Michael Waltrip wave his finger in admonishment.

Now, I love the win and you are in format. I like that someone like Aric Almirola can make it with just one great day, or that Kurt Busch can spin silk from an otherwise crap season. Sadly, now if you win, it seems you can also sin. Take the risk, and if it goes south just make sure you can afford the cash and the downtime.

This season I have been tinkering with an alternative system that erases win and you are in by simply inflating the win bonus from three to 25 points. It pays big to take the checkered flag, but without handing one immunity. Under that system, Hamlin would have dropped from 11th to 19th and under the Chase format he would now be 31 points out of the Top 16. That would have hurt. Instead, he will get back a well rested, albeit poorer and wiser, crew chief when they hit Chicago in mid-September. Oh, the humanity.

*Win bonus expanded from 3 to 25 points

1 – Jeff Gordon – 761 Points – 2 Wins
2 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 737 – 2
3 – Brad Keselowski – 732 – 3
4 – Jimmie Johnson – 694 – 3
5 – Matt Kenseth – 661 – 0
6 – Carl Edwards – 647 – 2
7 – Joey Logano – 635 – 2
8 – Kyle Busch – 631 – 1
9 – Kevin Harvick – 609 – 2
10 – Ryan Newman – 606 – 0
11 – Clint Bowyer – 577 – 0
12 – Kyle Larson – 562 – 0
13 – Austin Dillon – 559 – 0
14 – Kasey Kahne – 555 – 0
15 – Paul Menard – 551 – 0
16 – Greg Biffle – 550 – 0
17 – Brian Vickers – 532 – 0
18 – Tony Stewart – 529 – 0
19 – Denny Hamlin – 519 – 1
20 – Aric Almirola – 518 – 1


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.


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