Disqualification from NASCAR by vinyl

It would eventually happen.

Four years ago, NASCAR has finally instituted a rule that cars that fail post-race inspection, even race winners, would be disqualified.

This meant that the driver and team that crossed the finish line first would have their victory bonus revoked. This included almost all of the points – stage and playoffs – they earned during the event. They would be relegated to last place, almost as if they had never shown up on the track.

It happened in the sport Camping World Truck Series (sorry, Ross Chastain) and the Xfinity series (Kyle Busch in Texas in 2020 and Denny Hamlin at Darlington Raceway in 2019).

But in the past four years, the hammer has never been dropped (hey, I waited a year and a half, don’t judge me) on the Cup Series winners.

The closest we’ve come is Jimmie Johnson’s second-place finish in the 2020 Coca-Cola 600 being vacated, an event that likely kept him out of the playoffs in his final NASCAR Cup season.

But it finally happened, last weekend at Pocono Raceway.

Thanks to …. *check notes* …pieces of “vinyl” illegally placed on the front fascia of Denny Hamlin’s #11 Toyota and Kyle Busch’s #18 Toyota.

I had never heard the term “fascia” before Sunday (July 24). This is perhaps the least sounding term in motorsport that I have heard in recent memory.

Well, at least until NASCAR Vice President of Competition Scott Miller utters the word “vinyl” Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Miller said NASCAR was “very surprised” when he pulled the wraps off the car and found “additional layers of vinyl that actually deviated the part from the approved CAD file.”

No, it wasn’t your parents’ favorite Elvis record. According to a statement from Joe Gibbs Racing, it was a piece of “clear tape”, measuring two inches wide and 5½ inches long with a thickness of 0.012 inches, which had been placed “on each of the bottom corners of the front fairing in front”. left and right front wheel openings.

Whether it was 0.012 inches or three inches, an improperly verified part of the “building process” in the Joe Gibbs Racing garage resulted in the first disqualification of a Cup winner since 1960.

It also gave Chase Elliott, who didn’t lead a single lap of the 160-lap race at Pocono Raceway, his fourth series-leading win of the year.

Not that NASCAR’s most popular driver was thrilled with the events that led to his default win.

“I don’t really feel good celebrating someone else’s misfortune” Elliott told reporters on Monday Morning. “It’s not necessarily something I’m proud of or something I’m going to brag about throughout this situation.”

Elliott also told Hamlin could keep Sunday’s trophy if he wanted.

Although Hamlin can put it on eBay.

Did the aero benefits of those vinyl bits (uh, tape) make the difference to Hamlin being able to come back after bouncing off the wall on lap one and spinning on lap 11 to get what would have been his third win of the season?

We will probably never know.

But the rules are the rules, right?

In the first year of the Next Gen car, NASCAR let everyone know that it was important to enforce the rules. This was made clear with the penalty against the No. 6 RFK Racing team which currently has Brad Keselowski 28th in the points standings with five races remaining in the regular season.

If the “vinyl” was a simple mistake, JGR’s penalty will likely force teams to check their checklists at the store even more as the playoffs approach.

Intention aside, it’s entirely possible that a playoff run-off – Sept. 17 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Oct. 9 at Charlotte ROVAL 0r Oct. 30 at Martinsville – that the playoff points lost by Hamlin (five) and Busch (one point after winning Stage 2) could be a stark difference between advancement or elimination.

Then JGR members can release the music genre from vinyl.

May I suggest Elvis’ “Altar of Broken Hearts”?

2022 is Daniel McFadin’s ninth year covering NASCAR, with six years at NBC Sports. This is her second year of writing columns for Front stretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can also available on SpeedSport.com. And you can hear more of him on his podcast.

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Jack L. Goldstein