The five playoff points Denny Hamlin earned for his win at Darlington on Sunday night are no more.
NASCAR said Wednesday that Hamlin’s win won’t count for the playoffs after his car failed post-race inspection because of an issue in the rear suspension. In addition to not getting any playoff points for the win, Hamlin was penalized 25 regular season points and crew chief Mike Wheeler has been suspended two races.
If Joe Gibbs Racing doesn’t appeal Hamlin’s penalty, Wheeler will serve his suspension Saturday night at Richmond and the first race of the playoffs in Chicago.
After winning Sunday’s race, Hamlin had 12 playoff points. He now has seven playoff points pending where he finishes in the points standings. He’s still in fifth after the 25-point penalty and if he stays there, he’ll get six playoff points added to the seven. Since Hamlin won earlier this season at New Hampshire, he’s still guaranteed to make the playoffs.
Even though NASCAR is taking away the playoff points from Hamlin, he’ll still be officially recognized as the race winner much like Joey Logano is still officially the race winner of Richmond’s spring race even though his car failed inspection there.
That “encumbered” win by Logano means he’s on the periphery of the playoff picture. He hasn’t won since the Richmond penalty and needs to win Saturday night at Richmond to make the playoffs.
Should NASCAR start to take away wins from teams whose cars fail inspection? Probably. It’s a bit hypocritical to say a win doesn’t count for the playoffs even though it’s still a win. But an illegal car keeping the win is the way NASCAR has always done things. And it’ll be the way it continues to do things if a car in the playoffs gets a win over the final 10 races of the season.
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