by Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
LONG POND, Penn. — Denny Hamlin thought he had earned his seventh Pocono Raceway victory when he crossed the finish line first on Sunday, ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Bush.
But in a rare move — the first of its kind since 1960 — NASCAR disqualified a Cup winner. NASCAR found that both Hamlin’s winning car and Busch’s car had material in the front facia (the nose of the car) that was not permissible by NASCAR rules. The material in question could impact how the car handles.
Both Hamlin and Busch were disqualified, leading to third-place finisher Chase Elliott being declared the winner.
JGR has until noon Monday to decide whether to appeal, which is highly likely, and the appeal would be heard this week.
“There really was no reason why there was some material that was somewhere it shouldn’t have been,” NASCAR Cup Series Director Brad Moran said. “And that does basically come down to a DQ. … I can’t get into all the details of what the issues were.
“But both vehicles had the same issue. And unfortunately, they were not acceptable to pass inspection.”
Hamlin’s final finish was 35th, and Busch was 36th.
NASCAR will take the cars back to its research and development center, but at the moment, there are no additional penalties or suspensions being issued to the Hamlin and Busch teams.
Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch disqualified after Pocono race
Fast Thoughts: NASCAR must have thought the JGR violations were egregious to disqualify the top two finishing cars Sunday at Pocono.
Joe Gibbs said in a statement that the team will evaluate what happened. He did not say whether they will appeal.
“We were shocked to learn of the infraction that caused our two cars to fail NASCAR’s post-race technical inspection,” Gibbs said. “We plan to review every part of the process that led to this situation.”
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Here are three takeaways from Pocono:
Elliott the leader
With Ross Chastain and Ryan Blaney not finishing the race because of accidents, Elliott now has a 105-point lead over Chastain for the regular-season title with five races remaining.
The regular-season champion earns 15 playoff points, and the second-place driver earns 10. Those playoff points are added to a driver’s reset total at the start of playoff rounds and can make a big difference in whether a driver advances through NASCAR’s postseason.
But Elliott wasn’t interested in discussing the regular-season title after the race Sunday, when he thought he had finished third and not earned his fourth victory of the year.
“We were fortunate to run third,” Elliott said. “That means we need to be a little better, and that is where my focus is at right now: how do we improve, how do we become better than the guys who beat us today?”
Hamlin took the lead while battling nemesis Chastain with 18 laps remaining — Chastain spun and crashed after getting pinched toward the wall by Hamlin — and Hamlin never looked back as he motored across the finish line ahead of his teammate.
Chastain said he didn’t think Hamlin would have speeded him that way if they hadn’t had altercations at Gateway and Atlanta.
“I had that one coming,” Chastain said. “If I had raced smarter two months ago, I would have had plenty of room off Turn 1. I’ve realized that for the last month or two, and it’s too late for that.”
Hamlin said the way he has been raced by Chastain and others has dictated how he races.
“It’s a compliment saying I wouldn’t normally do that,” Hamlin said. “And I wouldn’t. It’s unfortunate because I would have loved to race hard. And I did. I just drove up the track, and he ran out of real estate.
“This is just part of the sport that we have. NASCAR doesn’t step into these things because they want the drivers to handle it.”
Denny Hamlin crosses finish line first at Pocono
Denny Hamlin holds off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch to finish first in the Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway before being disqualified.
Ty Gibbs debuts as sub for Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch missed the race Sunday after experiencing concussion-like symptoms following a crash Saturday in qualifying. The doctors at Pocono Raceway would not clear him to race after reexamining him Sunday morning.
That led to Ty Gibbs, grandson of Joe Gibbs and the winner of four Xfinity Series races this season, making his Cup debut. Gibbs had never raced the Next Gen car, and he got some simulator time in North Carolina at 1 am Sunday before flying back to Pocono to race.
He finished 16th in the race.
“I felt like I learned a lot,” the 19-year-old Gibbs said. “I’m very thankful. It was close to almost a top-15. It was fun racing with Brad [Keselowski]. I never thought I’d race with these guys.
“It was just cool being next to them on the track. So to 10-year-old Ty, that means a lot. I don’t think I would ever expect that.”
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpock breed. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
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