News Analysis: Denny Hamlin’s Darlington sweep ruled encumbered

What happened: Both of Denny Hamlin’s wins last weekend at Darlington Raceway came while his team was breaking the rules. After further investigation at its R&D Center, NASCAR found Hamlin had two encumbered victories at Darlington — for similar violations in the rear suspension. On the Cup side, Hamlin lost 25 points (meaningless) and the five playoff points he got for the win while crew chief Mike Wheeler received a two-race suspension and a $50,000 fine. To make matters worse, the runner-up driver in the Xfinity race — Joey Logano — also had an encumbered finish.

What it means: NASCAR penalties are not tough enough. Encumbered finishes by race winners are becoming more frequent, which means teams must not fear the consequences like they should. Even though he loses the playoff points, Hamlin gets to keep both of his wins despite his team basically cheating. That looks terrible, but this will never change until NASCAR starts to take the win away — which should have been the policy for a long time now. It’s also ridiculous to think Cup drivers not only made the Xfinity race a bore-fest (until the last lap), but they were whooping the Xfinity regulars by driving cheated-up cars the whole time. What a joke!

News value (scale of 1-10): Six. It should be a lot higher, but this is sadly becoming more commonplace. For example: Hamlin has two Xfinity wins this year and both were encumbered finishes. After you get beyond the headlines, these penalties are relatively hollow.

Three questions: When will NASCAR start taking the win away from illegal cars? When will NASCAR start taking the win away from illegal cars? When will NASCAR start taking the win away from illegal cars?

29 Replies to “News Analysis: Denny Hamlin’s Darlington sweep ruled encumbered”

  1. Three questions? Ha! That would be hilarious on your part if it wasn’t so obvious that NASCAR’s lack of intestinal fortitude was so lacking. As they say so often in comment sections on NASCAR related posts, “What a joke!”

  2. When will nascar take cup drivers out of xfinity for cheating? You cheat in a lower series you are banned. Plain and simple. I enjoyed the truck race with no cup guys this weekend and I enjoy xfinity races when they don’t have cup drivers. No other sport allows the “big boys” go down a tier for their own pleasure and now those guys are starting to circumvent the rules. I understand hetting as much out of a car you can, but without crossing the rules.

    1. I don’t care for Denny however he as the The driver didn’t cheat. his team did. You can’t remove a driver from the series for something he didn’t have a hand in.

  3. You know that NASCAR will say (as they’ve said basically since 1948):

    “We just want fans to go home knowing who won the race!”

    That may have been fine 20 years ago (hell, maybe even 10 years) but in the age of social media is it really that big a deal to take a W when fans can find out in an instant?

    1. They made that irrelevant when they revoked drivers’ wins that would otherwise count toward playoffs. When people leave the track thinking they know who has guaranteed a spot in the post-season, only to realize later that’s not the case, is there any difference? There isn’t.

  4. 1. When? I’m unsure. If they haven’t done it by now and there aren’t rumblings of it, they must not be approaching that. If it’s what we as fans want and we are vocal about it, be sure that’s more reason to ignore any calls for change.

    2. See 1.

    3. See 2.

  5. the biggest decision in all of this is when will fantasy results be impacted by this blatant cheating?

  6. Any Cup driver/team with an ‘encumbered’ win in a lower series should be banned from competing in that series for at least 3 races…companion races. Driver, out for at least 5 races. Let them hire a lower series regular to drive for them.

  7. Could be why most Toyota winners make sure to blow out the rear tires after victories on big tracks. Conspiracy theory? Maybe, but it seems to make sense after this past weekend.

    1. I’ve seen plenty of Ford and Chevy drivers blow out their tires after they win, including Harvick when he drove a Chevy and Logano in a Ford.

  8. Yeah…. I’ve been thinking about this. Taking away the “W” is one thing, but is it enough? Look at Logano. Say his win was taken away at Richmond. Then let’s say he wins again, (although, as it sits, not likely) Then what? Who cares if he lost a win. Sure, it was harder to get back in the playoffs, but he would have gotten back in with relatively no penalty.

    So, if you cheat so badly that you win and NASCAR catches you, how about not only taking away the win, but taking away the playoffs. No chance to get in if you get caught.

    And I agree with others that are saying that Cup regulars caught cheating in Xfinity or Trucks should be banned from the series, but at least for a period of a year. 12 months from the infraction.

  9. I’ve quit watching the Xfinity races for that reason. The cup drivers ruin it for the Xfinity drivers. The Xfinity drivers drive their hearts out only to have a senior driver take away the win. Then to find out they cheated to get it. Really? NASCAR wake up. You’re losing fans. With Dale Jr leaving and all the cheating going on NASCAR may never recover. WAKE UP NASCAR! Thx for the article Jeff. As usual you tell it like it is.

  10. A great first step would be to take wins away from any Cup team participating in a lower series if they fail the inspection items that would now only be encumbered.

    See how that goes over, then take it to Cup….not that they shouldn’t already….but baby steps I suppose.

  11. Do not want to wait until Wed. After car is taken to R&D to find out who won the race. Go through post race tech. Inspection, you pass, you win

  12. Well it’s about time the media started asking this question!! The lower tier series of the sport takes away the win and the trophy etc etc and why they don’t do it cup where it means even more is wack!! Checkout the 2000 All Pro Series race at Kentucky, Wayne Anderson cheated and got his win taken away and trophy ???? which was given to the 2nd place finisher Billy Bigley Jr. Cup teams cheat knowing it’s not gonna have a real effect on them most of the time but they need to put the drivers at risk of losing the seat with so many penalty points cause that’s the only way to stop this nonsense. Cheating and winning should be the most penalized rule in the book basically.

  13. Take the win away every time. But L1 penalty gets $250,000.00, Crew Chief suspended 3 months Driver suspended 3 races first offence everything doubles every offence after that. If you cheat in a lower series and you are driving for a cup team it’s a 1 million dollar fine and the team and driver is banned for a year from that series.

  14. Why would Cup drivers cheat in Xfinity races? That’s so silly because they are going to win anyways.

    I think NASCAR should ban a Cup driver from the Xfinity series if they get an encumbered win, sponsorship be damned. I think it’s more of a punishment for teams if they lose the sponsorship $ than if they “lose” the win.

  15. The problem is as Brian alluded to. If you only take the 1st and 2nd place (plua one random) cars to R&D after the fact, it’s impossible to take away to win, because what happens if both 1st and 2nd fail R&D tech…you don’t know if the resulting 3rd place “winner’s” car would have passed an R&D inspection. Not unheard of for both 1st and 2nd to be allegedly outside of the rulebook. Look at the 1973 National 500

    I’m fine with taking away the win at the track based on post-race tech, where you can impound everyone until the entire process is complete and if the winner fails, move onto to tech 2nd and so forth. But taking away a win based on R&D, a lot of the media echo chamber now screaming for this didn’t really think it through

  16. Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch are each owed 5 playoff points. I hate to think they might not advance in a round because another team in their own respective shops cheated.

  17. Lets see…..If I cheat when I race here locally-AND GET CAUGHT-I lose the race win, trophy, and $$ won, and I get suspended…..

    …if this is good enough for my local short track, why isn’t it good for NASCAR ??? Are we REALLY that much smarter than NASCAR??

    Just goes to show that ETHICS MATTER! And since it seems that NASCAR is now being run by a bunch of people who don’t have any, then to them, CHEATING IS NO BIG DEAL!

    ANOTHER REASON fans are GOING AWAY! And another nail in the coffin for this quickly sinking “sport”.

    C’mon Jeff-You represent US as a member of the media…..Try and get us an answer. Let us know what they say when you report that your readers abhor this attitude about “cheating”…..

  18. I know I’m in the minority here, but I really don’t want to see them start taking wins away. I know this only semi-relates, but it compares to what the NCAA has done to USC and various other programs, and also tried to do to Penn State. They vacated wins as punishment, but in my mind, it is a trivial punishment and cheats the fans that were at those games and remember who actually won that day. In the case of NASCAR, taking the win away would not be trivial at all, however I would feel absolutely cheated as a fan, having watched the burnout and the victory celebration, and then you want to tell me later that night after I am already home, or even worse later that week that the driver that I watched celebrate wasn’t actually the winner? That doesn’t sit right with me. Even if the winning car was a fraction of an inch out of tolerance, that still doesn’t change the fact that the car won the race, illegally or not. Hypothetically, say a car and driver like a Landon Cassill or DiBenedetto had somehow won the race, and then been found outside the tolerances, would we still have a problem declaring them the winner? I don’t think so. Taking wins away is a slippery slope, and an option that should only be taken as an absolute last resort.

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