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Hamlin Q and A: Penalties Are A Tough Deal

| , RacinToday.com Friday, August 1 2014

Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing was hit with heavy penalties this week. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)


Earlier this week, NASCAR announced that it was levying heavy penalties on the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team, the driver for which is Denny Hamlin.

On Friday at Pocono Raceway, Hamlin met with the media to discuss the penalties.

NASCAR inspectors found violations with the rear firewall block-off plates of the No. 11 Toyota driven to a third-place finish by Hamlin at the Brickyard 400 last Sunday. NASCAR rules mandate that the firewalls be sealed to prevent airflow from the inside to the outside of the car.

Venting or failing to seal the block-off plates can provide an aerodynamic advantage by adding downforce to the car, especially useful at a flat track such as IMS, where maintaining momentum through the corners is of paramount importance.

NASCAR docked Hamlin 75 driver championship points and team owner Joe Gibbs 75 owner points. Crew chief Darian Grubb was fined $125,000 and suspended for six weeks, meaning he will be lost to the team until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup’s opening weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in September.

Car chief Wesley Sherrill also drew a six-week suspension. Both Grubb and Sherrill were placed on probation for the next six months.

The points penalty is the largest since NASCAR instituted its new one-point-per-position scoring system in 2011. And since 75 points are the functional equivalent of 312 under the previously-used Latford scoring system, the points penalty is the largest ever imposed.

What follows is a transcript of the Q and A Hamlin held with the media at Pocono:

What is your reaction to the penalty on the No. 11 team?

“It’s a tough deal. It’s something that obviously affects our team, but there’s obviously other opportunities as well for us to go out here and get our stuff going. As an organization we were heading in the right direction so it kind of sucks because you lose a little bit of that momentum, but you also know that regardless of whether we had that or not we were still running pretty fast last week and would’ve finished in the same spot. We’re pretty confident that we’ll get through it and by Chase time we’ll be a contender.”

What do you think about the severity of the penalty and losing your crew chief at the race track?

“Well, I think NASCAR has made it pretty apparent of what you’ve got when you have a penalty — what the severity of the penalty is and the repercussions of that. I think that is all pretty straight forward as far as like the nuts and bolts of it. There’s obviously an appeal that’s going to go on so that will be presented to NASCAR, but I don’t think that this is the first time that NASCAR has ever seen this issue with cars in the garage as a whole. It hit us pretty hard for sure.”

Did you know about this while in the race car and do you worry about your safety in the car with something like this?

“I’m not worried personally and no I don’t know. I don’t feel anything different in the car. You don’t feel it pick up speed. It’s nothing like that. I’m not concerned. I know my team has always got my safety at their best interest. We do a lot of things to ensure that, but really nothing they do I know. I trust myself with them every single week when I sit in this seat and I’m sure they wouldn’t do anything that would really put me in danger.”

Is it not as big of a deal not having Darian Grubb here with all of the communication today?

“I think not only the technology that you have — the communication technology — but really I’m in pretty good hands. I’m with the guy that I’ve been with for 10 years. I’ve been with Mike Wheeler (interim crew chief) longer than I’ve been with anyone in the Cup Series. We worked together a lot and pretty confident in the job that he’s going to do, but on top of that then I get who was my car chief for 10 years, get him back to the race track. Even though it’s tough losing those guys and it’s tough for them especially I don’t think things will change at the race track too much. Darian (Grubb, crew chief) is in constant contact with Wheels (Mike Wheeler) at all times and myself. So, it’s not too bad as far as that’s concerned.”

How will you turn this situation into a positive?

“Well, you use stuff like this as motivation to go out there and prove that you can run fast no matter what and you can run well. We were on a run there last really month and a half to two months that I feel like our cars were really starting to turn the corner. So, really, I’m excited about what these next six weeks brings. We’ve got some great race tracks ahead of us — a lot of them which we feel like we can win.”

Did it affect the team when you had Mike Wheeler as a crew chief at New Hampshire a few years ago?

“It really didn’t. I mean, he’s been ready to crew chief for a pretty long time so I’m pretty confident that he’s going to do a good job and really I’m not concerned with any of his experience with handling people. He’s been in this business long enough. It was seamless then, it should be seamless now.”

Could this be a positive because Darian Grubb can be in the race shop getting your cars ready for the Chase?

“For sure. Yeah, definitely. It allows him to spend more time at the shop which that’s always beneficial.”

| , RacinToday.com Friday, August 1 2014
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