Denny Hamlin thinks it’s time for a conversation regarding NASCAR’s handling of post-race penalties for race-winning teams.
Hamlin won Sunday’s race at Darlington but his car failed post-race inspection. Wednesday, NASCAR penalized Hamlin 25 points and suspended his crew chief Mike Wheeler two races. Most importantly, the five playoff points Hamlin earned for the win disappear as well, though he’s still officially recognized as the race winner.
“I think we can talk about taking wins away in the future,” Hamlin said. “I think it’s definitely a possibility. As long as it’s the same for everyone, I think that’s key. Make sure that when someone else is in there with the same violation, it gets the same penalty and treatment even if it’s in the Playoffs.
“I think that’s what makes me nervous – is that in the Playoffs? Is NASCAR going to do the same things when so much is on the line? Obviously, it’s negative publicity for everyone involved. so I just hope that it’s the same. I’m fine with taking wins away. Nothing wrong with that.”
Hamlin is the second driver to win a race and have his car fail post-race inspection in 2017. In April at Richmond — the site of Saturday night’s race — Joey Logano won the race and his car subsequently was deemed illegal.
NASCAR is also a year removed from having a race winner’s car fail inspection in a playoff race. Martin Truex Jr.’s car failed inspection along with Jimmie Johnson’s after the playoff-opening race in Chicago.
Because of its lack of foresight when creating the penalty system in place in 2016, NASCAR had to take the step of not penalizing either driver. The penalty in place was a points deduction, though it didn’t matter for Truex because he had won the race and automatically advanced to the next round of the playoffs.
Now, a playoff penalty is treated just like it is in the regular season. The win wouldn’t count for advancement into the playoffs.
Logano’s Richmond penalty has put him on the periphery of the playoffs. If he doesn’t win Saturday night, he’ll miss the playoffs for the first time since joining Team Penske in 2013.
Because Hamlin won earlier in the year at New Hampshire — and is much higher in the points standings than Logano is — his Darlington failure doesn’t impact his playoff fortunes other than losing those five playoff points.
“If I didn’t have a win — if you took away Darlington, I’d still have my New Hampshire win,” Hamlin said. “If you took away my New Hampshire win, I’m still in on points, so what is the difference? I ran good enough through the regular season to get in in the Playoffs. The 22 hadn’t performed high enough in the entire regular season, so, yeah, it’s a tougher penalty for those guys, no doubt about it.”
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