NASCAR: Denny Hamlin narrowly escapes disastrous penalty

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

Denny Hamlin’s penalty for admitting to wrecking Ross Chastain back in March ended up not costing him anything whatsoever in terms of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture.

Heading into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin trailed teammate Martin Truex Jr. by 39 points for the lead of the regular season standings.

But had it not been for the 25-point penalty he was issued back in March after the race at Phoenix Raceway, a penalty he was issued not for driving Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain into the wall but for admitting that he did so on purpose, the difference between the teammates would have been just 14 points.

A points penalty that did not carry a playoff points penalty may not seem like a big deal, since every playoff driver has their point total reset to start each round of the playoffs in which they remain championship eligible.

However, Hamlin’s 25-point penalty could have been the difference between him winning the regular season championship and finishing in third place in the regular season standings.

With additional playoff points awarded to the top 10 drivers in the regular season standings on a 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale, Hamlin faced the possibility of a net loss of seven playoffs points because of that penalty. Instead of being locked into a top two spot with a chance at winning the regular season title, he really just needed to make sure he didn’t fall to third.

Fortunately for the Denny Hamlin, the 25-point penalty did not end up affecting him in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture whatsoever.

The driver of the No. 11 Toyota finished the regular season standings in second place, and he finished 48 points behind Truex, well outside of that 25-point window.

He walked away with an additional 10 playoff points for his second place finish, the same total he would have earned if he hadn’t admitted that what he did to Chastain was intentional. He is set to open up the postseason in third in the standings.

In fact, Hamlin really made out alright, considering the fact that Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron finished in third place and would have finished in second if not for a 60-point penalty of his own.

Byron’s penalty carried an initial deduction of five playoff points, and he ultimately lost two more because of the fact that the points penalty dropped him from second to third in the standings. So he scored eight additional playoff points, not 10.

Hamlin picked up the two Byron lost, and without losing any of his own.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is now giving fans $200 for signing up and placing a single $5 bet, lists Hamlin as the fourth favorite to win this year’s title at +600.

Odds and availability are subject to change, so lock in your $200 before this offer is gone!

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The first of 10 races on this year’s playoff schedule is scheduled to take place this Sunday, September 3. The Cook Out Southern 500 is set to be broadcast live on USA Network from Darlington Raceway beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET. If you have not yet had the chance to do so, begin a free trial of FuboTV today!