NASCAR suspended multiple members of Denny Hamlin’s team, including crew chief Chris Gabehart, four races each in response for ballast falling out of Hamlin’s car before Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Suspended are Gabehart, car chief Brandon Griffeth and engineer Scott Simmons.
The team does not plan to appeal the penalties, a spokesperson told NBC Sports.
Sam McAulay, an engineer for the team, will take over the crew chief duties. Eric Phillips will serve as the car chief. Mechanic Scott Eldridge will take one of the team’s six road crew spots.
The four races they will miss are Wednesday night’s event at Charlotte, Sunday’s race at Bristol, the June 7 race at Atlanta and the June 10 race at Martinsville. Hamlin won with Gabehart at Bristol last fall. Hamlin was fourth in last year’s playoff race at Martinsville with Gabehart.
Section 18.104.22.168.4.d states the penalty for ballast coming out of a car. The rule notes that: “Loss or separation of added ballast from the vehicle will result in a four Race suspension of the crew chief, car chief, and head engineer. If NASCAR cannot identify which series or vehicle the lost ballast originated from, all vehicles entered for that Event from and associated with the team organization identified on the lost ballast may receive the suspensions.”
The ballast fell out of Hamlin’s car before the start of the Coca-Cola 600. His team made repairs while the race started. Hamlin was eight laps down before he made it on track. He placed 29th, finishing seven laps behind the leaders.
“That’s a very, very severe safety thing,” Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”
“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.”