NASCAR released its penalty report and a notable name was issued a major suspension following the recent on-track action at Charlotte Motor Speedway that spanned throughout the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The first news to headline the penalty report is that Chase Elliott, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion, has been suspended from competing in next weekend’s Cup Series event at Gateway’s World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.
The news comes after Elliott was found to have intentionally wrecked veteran Denny Hamlin on Lap 185 of 400 during the Coca-Cola 600 that occurred this past Monday, May 29.
During the event, Hamlin and Elliott were battling inside the top 10 when Hamlin slipped up the track and crowded Elliott towards the frontstretch’s outside wall which resulted in Elliott making contact with the wall. Elliott quickly responded back by veering his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to the left and turning Hamlin head-on into the frontstretch’s SAFER Barriers at full speed that resulted in both competitors being wrecked out of the event. After the incident, Elliott cited the lack of control over his damaged car after scrubbing the wall that resulted in the contact with Hamlin.
“[Hamlin] ran us up in the fence,” Elliott said in the infield care center on FOX. “Once you hit the wall in these [cars], you can’t drive it anymore. An unfortunate circumstance.”
Hamlin, however, did not mince his words over the incident and called for Elliott to be suspended for the upcoming Cup event at Gateway for jeopardizing a driver’s safety amid a retaliatory act.
“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightaway,” Hamlin said. “It’s a tantrum and he shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable.”
Following the news of Elliott’s suspension for violating NASCAR’s Behavioral and Code of Conduct policy, Hendrick Motorsports released a statement, citing the team’s decision to not appeal the penalty and submit a formal request for a Playoff waiver for Elliott to remain in contention to make the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs. In addition, HMS announced that Corey LaJoie will be serving as an interim competitor for the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry for the upcoming event at Gateway. LaJoie currently competes as a full-time Cup Series competitor for Spire Motorsports. He is set to become the third different competitor to pilot HMS’ No. 9 entry alongside Josh Berry and Jordan Taylor.
With LaJoie joining HMS for a one-race deal, Carson Hocevar, a full-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitor for Niece Motorsports, will make his inaugural presence in NASCAR’s premier series by piloting LaJoie No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry this upcoming weekend at Gateway.
Elliott’s suspension marks the first time NASCAR has suspended a competitor for a retaliatory act since Bubba Wallace was suspended from competing in the Cup Series Playoff event at Homestead-Miami Speedway last October for intentionally turning and sending Kyle Larson into the frontstretch’s outside wall during the previous event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The incident involving Wallace and Larson mirrored the on-track scuffle between Hamlin and Elliott, where Larson forced Wallace up the track as Wallace hit the frontstretch’s outside wall before Wallace quickly retaliated by veering left, clipping and sending Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry into the outside wall as both competitors were knocked out of the event.
Elliott’s suspension also means that he is set to miss his seventh event of the 2023 Cup Series season. He was absent for six consecutive events from early March to the first half of April after suffering a left leg fracture from a snowboarding accident in Colorado during the week of the Cup Series event at Las Vegas. In eight starts through the first 14-scheduled events, including the Coke 600, Elliott has secured two top-five results and four top-10 results, with his best on-track finish being a runner-up result at Auto Club Speedway in February. With an average-finishing result of 14.6, however, he is currently situated in 29th place in the driver’s standings with 215 points and trails the top-16 cutline to make the Playoffs by 81 points. Elliott has until the series’ return to Daytona International Speedway on August 26, which marks the conclusion of the regular-season stretch, to win or point his way into the Playoffs, which will commence at Darlington Raceway on September 3.
In other penalty news highlighting the Cup Series, the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang team piloted by Michael McDowell has been penalized for the loss of a wheel or a wheel that was improperly installed on a racing vehicle when a right-front wheel rolled off of McDowell’s entry on the track’s backstretch with 57 laps remaining. As a result, front-tire changer Scott Brzozowski and jackman Adam Lewis have been suspended from NASCAR competition for the following two Cup Series events.
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Jeff Meendering, crew chief for rookie Sammy Smith and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra team, has been fined $5,000 due to a lug nut infraction, where one lug nut was found to have not been properly secured on Smith’s entry following Monday night’s action. In addition, the No. 74 CHK Racing team piloted by Dawson Cram at Charlotte has been docked 10 driver/owner points for violations involving the air duct, outlet hose and quarter window of Cram’s entry that did not meet NASCAR standards.
In the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Derek Hartnagel, truck chief for rookie Daniel Dye and the No. 43 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado RST team, has been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR for violating the sport’s substance abuse policy.
With this past extended weekend’s events at Charlotte Motor Speedway complete, the Cup and Craftsman Truck Series embark to World Wide Technology Raceway for their next scheduled event while the Xfinity Series travels west to compete for the second-ever time at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon. The Truck Series’ event at Gateway, which is also set to serve as the second of three Triple Truck Challenge events, will occur this Saturday, June 3, at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1 while the Xfinity Series event at Portland will follow suit at 4:30 p.m. ET on FS1. The Cup Series action at Gateway will conclude the weekend and occur on Sunday, June 4, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1.