Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch lost their 1-2 finish in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono on Sunday because of tape that had been applied to the front of their cars.
The Joe Gibbs Racing duo was disqualified Sunday night during post-race inspection after NASCAR said their cars didn’t meet the rule book. The disqualifications meant that third-place Chase Elliott was declared the winner of the race hours after it was over.
JGR said Monday that it wouldn’t appeal the disqualifications and explained why the tape was on the cars.
“In our review of the post-race infractions on the [Hamlin and Busch] cars at Pocono it was discovered that a single piece of clear tape was positioned over each of the lower corners of the front fascia ahead of the left-front and right-front wheel openings on both those cars,” JGR competition director Wally Brown said in a statement. “The added pieces were 2 inches wide and 5.5 inches long with a thickness of 0.012 inches and installed under the wrap. This change in our build process was not properly vetted within our organization and we recognize it is against NASCAR’s rules. We apologize to everyone for this mistake and we have made changes to our processes to ensure that it does not happen again.”
Adding something like tape to the front of a car can affect the vehicle's aerodynamics, even if that tape is underneath the wrap that includes the paint scheme and sponsor logos. NASCAR’s Cup Series rulebook is strict and teams don’t have much that they can do to find speed in 2022 thanks to the introduction of NASCAR’s new car. The car is essentially a spec car and teams buy numerous parts and pieces from approved single source vendors.
The disqualification of Hamlin is the first time a Cup Series race winner has gotten the win stripped away for a post-race inspection failure. NASCAR implemented its disqualification policy ahead of the 2019 season and had previously assessed points penalties and crew suspensions for winners whose cars failed inspection. Hamlin and Busch are not expected to receive any further punishments for their team after the disqualifications.
The win would have been Hamlin's third of the season. Instead, Elliott now has four wins in 2022 and solidified his place atop the points standings with five races to go in the regular season.