NASCAR issued a safety penalty to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11 team on Monday afternoon, with three key members each receiving suspensions.
Crew chief Chris Gabehart, car chief Brandon Griffeth and engineer Scott Simmons have been suspended for the next four NASCAR Cup Series races. The penalty is a result of two pieces of ballast that dropped out of Denny Hamlin’s Toyota during the pace laps of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Gabehart, Griffeth, and Simmons will miss the second race at Charlotte this week, and then Bristol, Atlanta, and Martinsville.
“That’s a very, very severe safety thing,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Those chunks of ballast are huge. We have actually seen those hit race cars. Fortunately, we haven’t had any injuries from it. It pretty much destroys a race car. If the wrong thing happens, it wouldn’t be good. That’s why those penalties are big.”
Section 126.96.36.199.4.d of the NASCAR rule book specifically addresses ballast, which is used for cars to meet weight requirements. The four-race suspension for the crew chief, car chief, and engineer in the event of the loss of ballast from a vehicle is laid out in that rule.
Hamlin missed the start of the Coca-Cola 600 because the team was required to repair the car before taking the green flag. When Hamlin did join the race, he was eight laps down to the leaders and finished 29th.
JGR does not intend to appeal the ruling. During the suspension period, Sam McAulay will substitute as crew chief, Eric Phillips will serve as car chief and Scott Eldridge will take the engineering spot.