NASCAR issued some hefty penalties on the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Tuesday as a result of the No. 11 car failing post-race inspection after Sunday’s Brickyard 400. Ahem, I mean the Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com (because I don’t think I type enough). There were big fines, crew chief and car chief suspensions and points deductions. But, really, in the grand scheme of things, does it even matter?
Some things to consider regarding the specific penalties:
POINTS PENALTY: Before the 75-point deduction, Denny Hamlin was 288 points to the good, as in he was already 288 points ahead of David Gilliland, the first driver outside the top-30 in points. Hamlin has a win this year, and with only six races remaining before the Chase cut-off and only 11 different drivers visiting victory lane, to this point, a win is sure to get a driver in, provided he stays in the top-30. A 75-point deduction would drop Hamlin back to being 213 ahead of 31st. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that he won’t squander away that large of a margin in six races over second-tier and lower teams. He has a win and he’s in.
SUSPENSIONS: Crew chief Darian Grubb and car chief Wesley Sherrill were each suspended for six races. That’s the exact number of races BEFORE the Chase kicks off in September. Sure, the No. 11 team would probably like to win races in the coming weeks, but in the grand scheme of things, the Chase and a championship are the big picture, here. That’s not to say that Hamlin couldn’t win with a fill-in crew chief. He could; it just wouldn’t be as easy, I’m assuming. And again, Hamlin’s in the Chase, as long as he doesn’t squander that entire 213-point cushion he has over 31st.
FINE: Grubb was handed a hefty fine, but let’s get real. Most fines handed to crew chiefs are actually paid by the race teams. You think JGR can’t afford a $125,000 fine? Sure, JGR would rather not write a check — or whatever form those kinds of payments take — that large to NASCAR, but I don’t think it’ll hurt the team that much. I’m sure Joe Gibbs Racing manages its money well enough that it’s just not throwing that kind of cash out the window, just because, but I’m sure that organization is financially healthy enough to just pay out the fine and continue going about its business as if nothing happened.
Joe Gibbs Racing released a statement Tuesday afternoon sayting that the penalties would be appealed, except for the suspensions of Grubb and Sherrill. They’re going to go ahead and begin serving those six race suspensions this weekend at Pocono Raceway. That’s probably a good call, in case the appeal is lost. That way, they’ll both be off suspension come Chase time. As pointed out earlier, the points don’t really matter at this point in time, given Hamlin’s Chase aspects. So what’s the point of the appeal, avoiding the fine? That must be what it boils down to. If that’s not it, why bother?
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