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Why Hamlin and Busch Were Disqualified at Pocono

An extra layer of unapproved tape was added to the nose in front of the wheel wells.


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An impermissible extra layer of tape over each corner of the front facia ahead of the wheel openings is what ultimately led to the disqualifications of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch from their first and second place finishes on Sunday in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway.

Joe Gibbs Racing has decided not to appeal the penalty and NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition Scott Miller detailed the infraction on Monday on SiriusXM Radio.

"Just so everyone understands, the fascia is the bottom part of the nose that attaches to the splitter -- the nose is a two-piece affair -- and the lower part is the fascia," Miller said. "It was on the lower fascia, an extra piece of vinyl that in effect deviated the part from the approved CAD files. That's what it was."

CAD stands for computer aided design and its how every component of that NASCAR Cup Series car is rendered in the rule book. In fact, a rule change came across the board on July 22 that stated parts cannot be added or modified to affect the aerodynamics of the car.

That includes tape.

In a statement released on Monday, Joe Gibbs Racing director of competition Wally Brown explained the infraction as an oversight.

"In our review of the post-race infractions on the 11 and 18 cars at Pocono it was discovered that a single piece of clear tape was positioned over each of the lower corners of the front fascia ahead of the left-front and right-front wheel openings on both those cars.

"The added pieces were 2 inches wide and 5 ½ inches long with a thickness of 0.012 inches and installed under the wrap. This change in our build process was not properly vetted within our organization and we recognize it is against NASCAR’s rules. We apologize to everyone for this mistake, and we have made changes to our processes to ensure that it does not happen again."

The NASCAR pre-race inspection process sees every car run through the optical scanning station for measurement purposes. The extra tape was not discoverable by the inspection platform as it would require removing the paint scheme wrap.

NASCAR regulations call for the top-two finishers to go through a complete teardown at the track. The third through fifth finishers go through a slightly less rigorous process. That third-place car was driven by Chase Elliott.

"Its inspection was completed and I’m not even sure if the transport was still on the premises when we (declared them the winner) but that top-five inspection was clear," Miller explained.

If the top two finishers, both Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas were found to have committed the same infraction, it stands to reason that the other two cars might have been too, but NASCAR has no mechanism to pull cars beyond the top-five for inspection.

"That ship has sailed at this point," Miller said. "We can’t inspect the entire field at that level of scrutiny or we’d be there until Wednesday or Thursday. Our procedures are to take the first and second place cars and a random, sometimes and sometimes not, and do that post-race teardown on them.

"The top-five cars go through an inspection process in the (Optical Scanning Station) to make sure alignment is correct and a visual inspection of the outside of the car to make sure nothing has been pushed, prodded or added," Miller said. "So, the top five cars are always inspected but the top-two go through the complete teardown at the race track."

Toyota also released a statement standing by its team but also NASCAR’s process:

"Toyota and TRD are disappointed with the disqualifications that came at the end of Sunday’s Pocono Cup Series race. However, as we’ve stated throughout the Next Gen process, we applaud NASCAR’s hyper-vigilance when it comes to policing the rules on this new race car. We have been in close communication with Joe Gibbs Racing and they have acknowledged that the tape added to the front fascia’s of the #11 and the #18 was not permissible by NASCAR’s rules. We stand by the team’s decision not to appeal the disqualifications and also continue to stand by NASCAR’s efforts to keep the playing field fair for everyone competing in the series."