The focus was on the post-race penalties, but two other NASCAR Cup Series drivers were issued significant points penalties at Pocono Raceway.
Much of the focus on the NASCAR Cup Series race weekend at Pocono Raceway was on Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, who finished the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 in first and second place, respectively, but were disqualified after their cars failed post-race inspection.
The failures came as a result of tape that had been applied to the front of their cars.
So it was Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, who originally finished in third place, who was declared the race winner, despite the fact that he did not lead any of the race’s 160 laps around the three-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Tricky Triangle in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.
Hamlin was officially scored in 35th place and scored just two points instead of 54. Busch was officially scored in 36th (last) and scored just one point instead of 52. None of the stage points or playoff points they earned during the race count.
Hamlin finds himself in 20th place in the point standings, though he does have 12 playoff points thanks to his two race wins and two stage wins. Busch finds himself in eighth, but with just six playoff points, thanks to his one race win and one stage win.
Two days after the race, the focus turned to Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell, who was issued a massive 100-point penalty in the standings on Tuesday after a violation was discovered when his #34 Ford was inspected at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina. The penalty came as a result of an improperly modified part.
He now finds himself in 26th place in the standings, and Hamlin actually moved up from 21st to 20th because of his penalty; McDowell had been in 20th.
But two other drivers, also teammates, were issued points penalties for rules violations over the weekend.
Those two drivers, Petty GMS Motorsports teammates Ty Dillon and Erik Jones, were each docked 35 points in the driver standings, and their teams were each docked 35 points in the owner standings.
Prior to the race, the #42 Chevrolet of Dillon and the #43 Chevrolet of Jones were both found to be in violation of Sections 14.6.5.E of the NASCAR Rule Book, pertaining to rocker box assemblies.
Jones scored 42 points in Sunday’s race. He scored six points with a fifth place finish in stage one, eight points with a third place finish in stage two, and 28 points with a ninth place finish in the race.
But because of the 35-point penalty, he only left Pocono Raceway with a net gain of seven points. With 472 points instead of 507, he sits in 18th place in the point standings as opposed to 15th.
Dillon simply scored 15 points with a 22nd place finish, so he left Pocono Raceway with a net loss of 10 points. With 294 points instead of 329, he sits in 30th in the point standings as opposed to 28th.
While neither driver is even remotely close to qualifying for the playoffs on points, these penalties could prove huge.
There have been 14 different race winners so far this season, and there are still five regular season races remaining, meaning that it is still very possible that there will be more than 16 different winners before the playoffs.
In the event that there are more than 16 different regular season race winners, not all of the single-race winners will make it in. The tiebreaker to determine which single-race winners make it and which don’t then becomes points.
So if Jones and/or Dillon win one of the regular season’s final five races, there is a slight chance that they could end up failing to qualify for the playoffs because of these 35-point penalties, depending on who the other additional winners are and where all the single-race winners end up in the standings.
As for Hamlin and Busch, Hamlin is locked into the playoffs thanks to his two wins, while Busch should be pretty safe as a single-race winner, considering his position in the point standings.