Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. NASCAR is on the right track with encumbered wins, but I think they need to go a little bit further. For the fourth time in 2017, we have an encumbered race winner. Unfortunately, it happened in both races of the same race weekend at the same track.
What does that mean?
You saw Denny Hamlin sweep the weekend at Darlington Raceway, but it was a figment of your imagination. Both wins were encumbered meaning they don’t count. But, he wasn’t the only one. Joey Logano’s second place finishing car on Saturday afternoon was also encumbered too. Both were encumbered for the exact same reason.
Both of their suspensions were in violation.
Both teams broke rule “Sections 20.14.2 Rear Suspension I-4 Truck Trailing Arm Spacers/Pinion Angle Shims; h.Spacers/pinion angle shims must have single planar mating surfaces. Notes: All mating surfaces between the truck; trailing arm and the U-bolt saddle must be in complete contact with each other. Race finish is encumbered per Section 12.10 Encumbered Race Finishes.”
But, if that’s not enough, Hamlin’s winning car on Sunday failed for literally the exact same reason too.
On the XFINITY Series side, Crew chief Eric Phillips (No. 18 Toyota JGR) and Greg Erwin (No. 22 Ford Penske) has been fined $25,000 and suspended from two NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship Points Events. The teams have been assessed with the loss of 25 owner points.
On the Cup side, Crew chief Mike Wheeler (No. 11 Toyota JGR) has been fined $50,000 and suspended from two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Points Events. Team has also been assessed with the loss of 25 owner points and 25 driver points. That means Hamlin will be without his crew chief for the first playoff race at Chicagoland.
The really only major penalty for this is that Hamlin will be without Wheeler for the opening playoff race. Other than that, this is all a slap on the wrist. Which leads me to this, NASCAR needs to penalize these teams stiffer.
First of all, why on Gods green earth are Cup teams cheating in XFINITY Series competition? That merits a much stiffer penalty than anything else. When you are a full-time Cup operation fielding an XFINITY Series team with a Cup driver, you should never, ever, ever, ever manipulate your cars. It’s already getting out of hand with Cup drivers keeping XFINITY Series regulars out of victory lane in general, but they’re doing so with illegal cars. That’s absolutely absurd.
Plus, don’t give me the same BS that the teams usually give when they get caught that it was to no advantage anyways. Just stop that BS from the get go. If it had no advantage, then why did JGR violate the same rule in both series? Why was Logano’s car the same way? If NASCAR confiscated more cars, I bet they would have found the same thing.
It seems like the rear end of these cars is where teams are trying to find advantages. Logano and Brad Keselowski’s Cup cars were penalized for rear suspensions. Same with Kyle Larson too.
There’s clearly an added benefit to alter the rear end of the car some how, that’s where everyone is getting caught.
But, this isn’t the first time Hamlin has been caught on the XFINITY Series level. Now, both of his wins are encumbered in 2017. This isn’t the first time Logano has been caught either.
To me, if you get caught cheating in the XFINITY Series level as a Cup team, you should have a much bigger penalty. If you get caught twice, that’s expulsion of the crew chief and driver for a full calendar year.
I feel sorry for the fans that saw two great late race battles with three of the four cars deemed illegal. Martin Truex Jr. should have never had to be pushing that hard on Sunday night.
I knew Hamlin’s wins seemed too good to be true. He and Logano on Saturday afternoon and his car on Sunday seemed way too stable compared to everyone else.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
To make matters worse, Hamlin lost nothing by this. The XFINITY Series holds nothing threatening to him and on the Cup side, he’s without his crew chief for a meaningless regular season finale and just the first Cup playoff race. He already had a win in Cup competition already so the encumberment of his win doesn’t affect his status other than just five bonus points. He was too far back to get to third in the overall standings and still 34 points ahead of Brad Keselowski even after the penalty for fourth.
That’s why I say he got away with this.