A major penalty was assessed to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry driven by Denny Hamlin at the conclusion of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
According to the NASCAR Rule Book, Hamlin’s No. 11 team was found to have violated Safety Section 126.96.36.199.4.d Minimum Safety Penalty Options that referred to the loss/separation of added ballast from a racing vehicle during a race, qualifying or practice session.
As a result, Hamlin’s crew chief Chris Gabehart, car chief Brandon Griffeth and engineer Scott Simmons have been suspended for the next four NASCAR Cup Series races through June 10. With Joe Gibbs Racing opting to not appeal the penalty, race engineer Sam McAulay will serve as Hamlin’s interim crew chief, beginning on May 27 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In addition, veteran Eric Phillips will serve as Hamlin’s car chief while Scott Eldridge will join the team as a mechanic. The penalty came with no points loss for Hamlin and he is still in eighth in the Cup Series regular-season standings, 81 points behind leader Kevin Harvick, with two wins in 2020.
During the pace laps for the 600-mile event, a chunk of ballast (tungsten weight) slipped off the side rails of Hamlin’s car following a puff of smoke and came to rest near the exit of pit road on the racing surface. Hamlin was slated to start the main event in 13th, but he surrendered his starting spot to nurse his car to pit road and have his crew replace the component. He was unable to start the race with the rest of the field on the lead lap. By the time Hamlin returned on track, he was eight laps behind the leaders and fell back as far as nine laps behind. He would, ultimately, finish 29th, seven laps down.
Hamlin, along with his fellow competitors, will return on track for the next scheduled Cup Series event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Alsco Uniforms 500, on Wednesday, May 27, at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.