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Sunday was shaping up as a news-filled day even before the stunning disqualifications of winner Denny Hamlin and runner-up Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway.

News broke in the morning that the NASCAR medical staff declined to approve Kurt Busch stepping back into the No. 45 Toyota because of concussion-like symptoms resulting from Saturday’s crash in qualifying. That opened the door for rising star Ty Gibbs to make his debut in the sport’s top series.

The race itself generated a major storyline in the late going as Hamlin and Ross Chastain renewed their not-so-friendly rivalry. Hamlin rode high coming off a turn, leaving his nemesis just enough room to wreck himself.

Denny Hamlin pretends to catch some nap time after winning the NASCAR Cup Series M&M's Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 24, 2022. | Logan Riely/Getty Images
Denny Hamlin pretends to catch some nap time after winning the NASCAR Cup Series M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 24, 2022. | Logan Riely/Getty Images

It was a key moment in Hamlin’s short-lived victory, which lasted only until NASCAR officials took a look at his car in the routine post-race inspection.

Fortunately, social media captured it all, and the day’s chronology in tweets will live forever, or until Elon Musk is forced to buy Twitter and then shuts it down out of spite.

Here’s how events played out, beginning with Hamlin starting the day by acknowledging his fellow driver’s disappointing news:

Pocono Raceway is known as the Tricky Triangle for good reason. The combination of the speeds and banking on the turns makes for tough driving even without wind gusts buffeting the cars or overly aggressive competitors going three-wide and disrupting the aero.

Hamlin got a taste of the spin cycle early, but his team helped get the No. 11 Toyota back in the mix not long afterward. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch was cruising along with what looked like the day’s best car.

Busch logged 63 laps in the lead, but Chastain took over late and led for 15 laps before Hamlin brushed him aside, ran out front for the final 18, and took the checkered flag.

NASCAR Nation rightfully thought the Hamlin-Chastain skirmish would be the focal point of the post-race interviews and the hop topic of the week before attention turned to the Indianapolis road course.

They were not disappointed as Hamlin brought his A-list material to the microphone, even if a sizeable portion of the crowd didn’t appreciate it.

In retrospect, however, Hamlin hamming it up by pretending to lay himself down to sleep may have been karma’s signal to come pay him a visit.

Everything was still routine up to that point, and congratulations were pouring in for Hamlin winning for the seventh time at Pocono and scoring his 49th triumph in the Cup Series, which (would have) tied Hall of Famer Tony Stewart on the all-time list.

Alas, the good times did not last long around the Joe Gibbs Racing haulers as the No. 11 team celebrated while the also-rans packed up for the trip home. The usually routine post-race inspection turned out to be anything but routine.

After discovering issues with the fascia on the Nos. 11 and 18 cars, NASCAR disqualified both and promoted Chase Elliott to the top of the podium for his fourth victory of the year.

Normally, Kyle Busch would be the go-to guy for reporters to capture the snide remark in the face of bad news, but Hamlin handled this one all by himself.


How Did NASCAR Discover Disqualification-Worthy Violations for Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch in Postrace Inspection But Miss Them in Prerace Inspection?

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