Three of the four Joe Gibbs Racing cars in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series were assessed L1-level penalties for having splitters that did not meet rules specifications during pre-race inspection before last Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway.
The No. 11 team of Denny Hamlin, the No. 18 team of Kyle Busch and the No. 20 team of Erik Jones all were sent to the rear of the field prior to the FireKeepers Casino 400, when the violations were discovered.
Crew chiefs Mike Wheeler (No. 11 team), Adam Stevens (No. 18 team) and Chris Gayle (No. 20 team) all were fined $25,000, according to Tuesday’s penalty report. Their respective car chiefs — Brandon Griffeth (No. 11 car chief), Nate Bellows (No. 18 car chief) and Jason Overstreet (No. 20 car chief) — all were suspended from the next Monster Energy Series points event as well.
The Monster Energy Series is off this weekend, meaning the penalties will be served at Sonoma Raceway next weekend.
Busch finished fourth in Sunday’s race, with Hamlin and Jones coming home 12th and 15th respectively.
With 75-percent of their Cup fleet being penalized for the same violation, it’s clear that the intent was there to do something malicious. I don’t care what JGR says in the aftermath of this, they were deliberately trying to cheat. Period.
Before anyone says, well it would have no impact on the car, just stop it. I’m written about this ad nauseum. Every time a car is out of compliance, there’s an advantage. The teams put out these same press releases that they’re acknowledging the penalty and won’t appeal but the car had no advantage over anyone else.
In this instance, like all the others, there was a benefit to alter the splitter. If there wasn’t why would three of their four cars get penalized for the exact same violation? Plus, the splitter does give an advantage. By having the kind of violation that they were found to have, it would have allowed those cars to be quicker in the corners. The illegal splitter in which they were hit with would have allowed to turn in the corners better which in turn would allowed them to carry more speed through the wide sweeping turns in Michigan. It would have been a HUGE advantage, hence getting caught.
In their defense, this wasn’t illegal last year. Teams were playing around with the splitters in 2017. So, in order to get control of themselves, the teams went to NASCAR to police it for this year.