Joe Gibbs Racing won’t appeal Denny Hamlin’s Darlington penalty; Chris Gabehart to be crew chief

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Denny Hamlin will start the Cup Series playoffs without crew chief Mike Wheeler.

Joe Gibbs Racing said Wednesday it won’t appeal Hamlin’s rear-suspension penalties after the No. 11 Toyota’s win in Sunday’s Bojangles Southern 500, which means Wheeler’s two-race suspension will begin with the regular-season finale Sept. 9 at Richmond Raceway (rather than be deferred while awaiting an appeal hearing that could have made him eligible).

Chris Gabehart will be the interim crew chief for Hamlin at Richmond and Chicagoland Speedway. 

Gabehart has been the crew chief for the No. 20 Xfinity Series team of JGR in 23 races this season, including four victories. He has worked three times in 2017 with Hamlin, winning the June 17 race at Michigan International Speedway. Gabehart was suspended two races after NASCAR ruled that victory also was encumbered becuase of an illegal splitter.