Early Monday morning, NASCAR officials took to the front straightaway of Pocono Raceway in search of a suspected object that fell off of Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry.
According to NASCAR officials, they became suspicious when Hamlin who, after winning the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 presented by Target on Sunday, crashed the left side of his race car into the front straightway wall while doing his post race victory burnout.
Hamlin, who has won 22 races while driving in the NASCAR series during a seven-year span, including four at Pocono, could be found guilty of sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing), and sections 20-2.3A (unapproved added weight) if indeed the metal object that fell from his car was not approved by NASCAR.
The reason NASCAR has decided to hold Hamlin responsible instead of his crew chief Mike Ford is to send a message to the rest of the teams that drivers are not beyond repercussions if they knowingly partake in actions which could alter the outcome of a race.
NASCAR officials spent the better part of Sunday night looking over tapes of the post race burnout to see if indeed there was any type of suspicious activity going on before and after Hamlin’s crash into the wall.
But it wasn’t until they analyzed a camera angle not shown to the public that NASCAR officials found what they were looking for when they noticed a rather large object fall out from behind the fender as the car hit the wall.
NASCAR said they found it strange that Hamlin would crash into the wall, knowing this was his fourth trip to victory lane on this track, and they couldn’t remember a time when any driver had ever hit a wall during a post race burnout.
NASCAR also said through a spokesperson that the object that fell from the car was picked up by track maintenance workers after the race was finished while they were doing routine clean-up, and they never suspected that the piece of metal they found came from Hamlin’s car.
These maintenance workers unknowingly threw it away, but luckily for NASCAR the dumpster in which it was disposed was not scheduled for pick-up until Tuesday morning.
NASCAR confiscated the car, and it's on its way to NASCAR's R&D center, where it will be further inspected.
Joe Gibbs Racing (as we know) are not immune from pushing the envelope in an attempt to gain the upper hand. It was just two years ago, back in 2008, when crew chiefs Jason Ratcliff and Dave Rogers were caught putting magnets under the gas pedals of the No. 18 and No. 20 Toyotas, designed to project lower, false horsepower readings.
Tony Stewart, who drove the No. 20 car at Michigan, and Joey Logano, in the No. 18, were docked 150 championship points and placed on probation through the end of that year.
Team owner Joe Gibbs was also penalized 150 points on both of the entries, along with crew chiefs Jason Ratcliff of the No. 18 and Dave Rogers of the No. 20, who were each fined $50,000 and indefinitely suspended from NASCAR duties.
Gibbs, who was reached on Monday afternoon at the race shop, declined to comment until NASCAR finishes their investigation, along with crew chief Mike Ford, who also declined to comment on the accusations.
Hamlin, who was reached for comment, would only say that he had trouble pushing the clutch pedal which caused him to crash into the wall while doing his burnout.
Hamlin went on to say that he has been feeling a lot of discomfort in his left ACL, which is the same one on which he had surgery earlier in the year, and the one he uses to operate the clutch pedal.