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Denny Hamlin has had a season to remember. He’s consistently underperformed compared to his typically high standards but has still managed to earn a couple of wins. Interestingly, it should have been more. However, as we all shockingly witnessed a few weeks ago, NASCAR disqualified the No. 11 team for an infraction discovered in postrace inspection.

Since then, the three-time Daytona 500 winner posted a mediocre 14th-place finish on the Indianapolis Road Course last Sunday and a solid third-place result at Michigan over the weekend. But it’s what happened after the latest race that could be causing the Joe Gibbs Racing driver and his team PTSD with flashbacks to a few weeks ago. 

Denny Hamlin disqualified at Pocono

Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch started on the front row at Pocono. The two JGR cars finished in that same order. Until they didn’t. 

Several hours after taking the checkered flag, NASCAR disqualified both cars when officials removed portions of the car wrap during the postrace inspection and discovered pieces of tape on both cars located in the same position.

Hamlin’s disqualification was the first one of a winner since 1960. And it sent a message to the garage that any and all modifications to vendor-supplied parts on the Next Gen car, including something as innocuous as a piece of tape, would be found in violation of the rules and penalized.  

Finishes third and car goes to NASCAR R&D Center

While NASCAR disqualified Hamlin and Busch after Pocono for what was found in postrace inspection, there was the potential for more penalties if officials had found any additional unapproved modifications during a more thorough inspection of the vehicles at the NASCAR Research and Development Center. They did not.

However, during that same inspection of one of the randomly selected cars NASCAR returns after each race, officials did find an illegally modified part on Michael McDowell’s car, which resulted in a deduction of 100 owner and 100 driver points, plus a four-race suspension and fine for crew chief Blake Harris. 

After this week’s race at Michigan, NASCAR announced that winner Kevin Harvick had passed postrace inspection. Then, ironically, the report indicated that Hamlin and the No. 9 of Chase Elliott would be going back for a more detailed look at the R&D Center. Ironic because it was Elliott who finished third at Pocono but was propelled to the win when both Hamlin and Busch were DQ’ed.   

Hamlin made it clear that teams are getting message

Denny Hamlin being interviewed
Denny Hamlin is interviewed during driver introductions prior to the NASCAR Cup Series M&M’S Fan Appreciation 400 on July 24, 2022 at Pocono Raceway. | Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Denny Hamlin Bluntly Admits His Team Deserved Punishment After Blatantly Ignoring NASCAR’s Warning, and Agrees With Brad Keselowski, Hoping More Teams Get Punished This Year

While it would be completely natural for Hamlin to feel a little anxious about his car going for a deeper inspection, especially given all that’s happened in the last few weeks, the driver isn’t likely too concerned based on what he recently said during an appearance on the Door Bumper Clear podcast, where he indicated that teams are starting to realize that NASCAR has changed the culture around modifying parts, and those adjustments, which might have received a wrist slap in the past, will no longer be tolerated. 

“I think that they’ve set a precedent,” Hamlin said. “Hopefully, others get DQ’ed this year. I believe that that will be the case. I think that they’re really laying down the law here and saying, ‘We’re done with it. We’ve told you what the rule is.'” 

Now all Hamlin and Elliott can do is wait until NASCAR releases its findings on Tuesday or Wednesday.

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