When I first saw the headline that said Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch had been given DQs after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway, my immediate thought was:
“Oh, how nice it is that NASCAR gave them coupons for Dairy Queen for finishing 1-2!”
Heck, maybe they were going to get a banana split or hot fudge sundae. That certainly would have been a mighty tasty treat in exchange for the searing heat behind the wheel they endured during the race.
Well, obviously, as it turns out, this kind of DQ was not the case and had absolutely nothing to do with ice cream or treat novelties.
Not by a Pocono 2.5-mile run.
Both Hamlin and Busch and their cars were disqualified after the cars reportedly violated NASCAR Cup aero rules, thus negating the 1-2 finish in Sunday’s race.
As a result, Hamlin and Busch went home, did not pass go, did not collect $200 and essentially went through a race with no reward whatsoever, no financial winnings, no points, nada, nothing, no how.
“There was some issues discovered that affect aero of the vehicle. The part was the front fascia,” NASCAR Cup Series Managing Director Brad Moran said, per NASCAR.com. “And there really was no reason why there was some material that was somewhere that it shouldn’t have been, and that does basically come down to a DQ.”
Surprisingly, even though there is an old saying about how stuff rolls downhill, NASCAR said Sunday night that it will not access additional penalties. That means crew chiefs, car chiefs and potentially other team members can breathe a bit easier, knowing they will not be significantly penalized or face heavy fines or four-week (or longer) suspensions from competition.
“We saw enough that the DQ was warranted and we are bringing the vehicles back for further evaluation,” Moran said. “So we will look much closer at both vehicles, but as of right now, no, we are hopefully not going to find anything else. But we are going to inspect them further when we get back to the R&D Center.”
Sure, Joe Gibbs Racing has an opportunity to appeal the penalty by Noon ET on Monday (July 25). But it sounds like NASCAR actually cut the organization such a significant break against other penalties and assessments, that appealing likely would only make things worse in the long run – particularly if JGR loses the appeal and opens the door for NASCAR to indeed issue further penalties, if need be.
As Moran said, both cars were confiscated after the race and sent to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., for further inspection over the next couple of days.
“We can’t get into all the details of what the issues were, but both vehicles had the same issues and unfortunately they were not acceptable to pass the inspection,” Moran said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: See video of Brad Moran’s announcement of the DQ to the media following Sunday’s race:
The DQ is a first in the Cup Series since enhanced post-race inspection penalties were first invoked in 2019.
“It’s unfortunate. We don’t want to be here talking about this,” Moran said, per NASCAR.com. “We just saw a great race. The last thing we want to do is meet here afterwards and talk about this problem.
“But the teams and the owners and everybody is well aware that this new car was going to be kept with some pretty tight tolerances, and there’s some areas that all the teams are well aware that we cannot be going down the path that we had in the past with the other car.
“So it is partly to do with the new car and the rules have tightened up. Everyone has to abide by our new rules, which everybody’s well aware of.”
I commend NASCAR for having the guts to overturn the results and make Chase Elliott the winner. After Hamlin and Busch, probably no one was more surprised at what happened than the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, who figured he would go home with a third-place finish.
But no, about an hour or so after the race and after the majority of race fans – particularly those of Kyle, Denny and Chase – had already departed the racetrack and were on their way home, NASCAR made the unprecedented move to strip Hamlin and Busch of their respective finishes.
Up to now, I can’t think of another Cup race where the winner was DQ’d. Sure, there have been penalties, including taking away driver and owner points, etc., but outright kicking out not only the winner but also the runner-up is pretty much unheard of.
That’s because it never has happened in the Cup Series before Sunday.
Sure, we’ve seen a couple of DQs in the Xfinity and Truck Series over the last few years, but up to now, the Cup Series had practically been as untouchable as the sacred cows that roam wild through the streets of India.
Looking at social media and fan sites, there were more than a few folks who blasted NASCAR for its actions.
NASCAR officials caught two drivers and their cars that were outside the rules. What did those critics expect NASCAR to do, just ignore what apparently were fairly obvious and significant rules violations?
Bravo, NASCAR, for showing that it will not tolerate anything of the sort in the Cup Series. Notice I’m not using the word “cheating” in this diatribe because there’s no evidence – unless NASCAR finds something more underhanded or intentionally when it further tears down the offending cars back at the R&D Center.
I’ve never understood how or why organizations are so intent upon bending the rules, or as some of the top violators like to say about how they’re “working in a grey area” or they’re “pushing the envelope” or something similar.
But honestly, I am quite surprised given the fact that JGR is almost always held up by NASCAR as one of the cleanest and most honest organizations in the sport.
Could JGR be an innocent victim of the violations found with the No. 11 and 18 Toyota Camrys? Sure, it’s possible, but given how NASCAR officials reacted afterward, and how quickly it took away the 1-2 finish and handed the win to Chase Elliott, it’s pretty clear that whatever violations were found were not only serious but also were not caused accidentally or by contact with other cars (remember, Hamlin had yet another tete-y-tete with Ross Chastain again in Sunday’s race).
I guess, in a way, JGR maybe got off a bit lightly Sunday. NASCAR could really have thrown the book at the organization, the drivers, crew chiefs, car chiefs and others on both teams both from a points and particularly a financial standpoint.
So much so that if they had been heavily fined and penalized, maybe Dairy Queen might have been the only place some of those folks might have been able to afford to eat at for a while, indeed.