NASCAR: Denny Hamlin penalty could come back to haunt him

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Pocono Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Pocono Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

The penalty issued to Denny Hamlin back in March could end up coming back to haunt him as the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs approach.

It may not have seemed like a huge deal at the time, especially since there was no playoff point deduction like we have seen included in so many other penalties that have been issued throughout the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, but the penalty issued to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin after the race at Phoenix Raceway back in March could come back to haunt him.

Knowing that he was going to lose several positions on a late restart due to the fact that everybody around him was on newer tires, he decided to exact revenge on Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain.

The two have a history of on-track incidents going back to last year, and Hamlin had long stated that some of the younger drivers in the series need to learn a lesson.

Hamlin drove Chastain up into the wall, and both drivers lost several positions after restarting inside the top 10. Hamlin finished in 23rd place ahead of Chastain in 24th.

At first, NASCAR took no action against Denny Hamlin following this incident.

But after Hamlin admitted on his Actions Detrimental podcast that he did what he did on purpose, NASCAR stepped in and docked him 25 points.

Considering the fact that NASCAR’s playoff format is set up the way it is, a 25-point regular season penalty doesn’t seem significant, especially since that penalty did not include any sort of playoff point deduction. However, that penalty could end up costing Hamlin a number of playoff points now as well.

Drivers who finish the regular season in the top 10 in the point standings are awarded additional playoff points to carry with them throughout the playoffs, on a 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale.

So if Hamlin’s 25-point deduction ends up being the reason he finishes lower in the regular season standings, it will have cost him playoff points.

Any playoff point deduction could be significant. Playoff points are points that are added to drivers’ point totals at the start of every playoff round except for the Championship 4, and we have seen the slimmest of margins be why drivers have advanced (or have not advanced) to the next round of the postseason before.

Following his win in Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway, Hamlin sits in third place in the point standings, 25 points behind Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron in second and 55 points behind teammate Martin Truex Jr. in first.

Notably, Byron himself was docked 60 points — and five playoff points — earlier this season, so Hamlin isn’t the only driver trying to mitigate a penalty from several months ago.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is currently running a promotion in which fans receive an instant $100 just for betting $5, lists Hamlin as the fifth favorite to win this year’s championship at +800.

Odds and availability are subject to change. Lock in your $100 before it’s too late!

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Five races remain on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season schedule, including this Sunday afternoon’s Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway. This race is set to be broadcast live on USA Network beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. If you have yet to begin a free trial of FuboTV, do so now!