NASCAR intentionally suspended the wrong person

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

After Denny Hamlin lost a wheel during the Cup Series race at Dover Motor Speedway, NASCAR knowingly suspended the wrong crew member.

NASCAR officials penalized two Cup Series teams on Tuesday for lost wheels during the DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by RelaDyne at Dover Motor Speedway. One of those teams was the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing team of Denny Hamlin.

The team was officially penalized for violating Section of the NASCAR Rule Book. This section of the rule book discusses the separation of an improperly installed wheel.

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The violation was the fact that the front left wheel came off of Hamlin’s #11 Toyota following a pit stop during the Monday portion of the 400-lap race around the four-turn, 1.0-mile (1.609-kilometer) high-banked “Monster Mile” oval in Dover, Delaware.

As a result of the safety violation, the crew chief and two crew members on the #11 team were issued four-race suspensions by NASCAR.

Crew chief Chris Gabehart, jackman Derrell Edwards, and front tire changer Blake Houston were the three individuals who were issued these suspensions.

However, the strangest element of it all is the fact that, despite being listed as the front tire changer, Houston wasn’t the one who failed to properly install the front left wheel.

According to Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass, that individual was Mike Hicks, who was listed as a rear tire changer.

Yet NASCAR decided to suspend Houston, simply because he was officially listed as a front tire changer, instead of suspending the individual who was actually responsible for the front left wheel.

And they did so knowingly.

Of course, the official rule does not specify who the two additional suspended team members need to be in a case such as this one.

With that having been said, it does seem a bit odd that the wrong individual would be suspended for a safety violation if the issue at hand is indeed safety. Wouldn’t it make more sense to actually suspend the individual who didn’t get the wheel on properly, regardless of what he was “listed” as?

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When it comes down to it, NASCAR is intentionally suspending the wrong person. They clearly know it was Hicks, not Houston, who was responsible for the wheel that came off. But simply because Houston was listed as the #11 team’s front tire changer, he was issued a four-race suspension instead of Hicks.