Race Weekend Central

Mike Wheeler to be Interim Crew Chief for Denny Hamlin in Darian Grubb’s Absence

Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Thursday that Mike Wheeler, the lead engineer on the No. 11 Toyota driven by Denny Hamlin, will fill in for a suspended Darian Grubb as crew chief for the next six Sprint Cup Series races starting this weekend at Pocono Raceway.

It was announced on Tuesday that Grubb and car chief Wesley Sherrill would be suspended for the next six Sprint Cup Series races after Hamlin’s No. 11 car failed post race inspection after last weekend’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when it was found that the rear firewall covers on Hamlin’s car were improperly installed allowing air to go to the rear of the car to create more rear downforce.

Here is NASCAR’s full explanation of what sections of the rule book the infraction violated:

12-1 – Actions detrimental to stock car racing;
20-2.1 – Car body must be acceptable to NASCAR officials and meet the following requirements:
·         K – Any device or ductwork that permits air to pass from one area of the interior of the car to another, or to the outside of the car, will not be permitted. This includes, but is not limited to, the inside of the car to the trunk area, or the floors, firewalls, crush panels and wheel wells passing air into or out of the car;
·         L – All seams of the interior sheet metal and all interior sheet metal to exterior sheet metal contact point must be sealed and caulked. This includes, but is not limited to, floors, firewalls, wheel wells, package trays, crush panels and any removable covers;
20-3.4 – All references to the inspection surface in sub-section 20-3.4 have been determined with the front lower edge of both main frame rails set at six inches and the rear lower edge of both main frame rails set at eight inches. For driver protection, all firewalls, floors, tunnels, and access panels must be installed and completely secured in place when the car is in competition;
20-3.4.5 – A rear firewall, including any removable panels or access doors, constructed using magnetic sheet steel a minimum of 22 gage (0.031 inch thick), must be located between the trunk area and the driver’s compartment and must be welded in place. Block-off plates/covers used in rear firewalls in place of blowers, oil coolers, etc., must be constructed of 22 gage (0.031 inch thick) magnetic sheet steel. Block-off plates/covers must be installed with positive fasteners and sealed to prevent air leakage. Carbon fiber or aluminum block-off plates/covers will not be permitted.
Joe Gibbs Racing still plans to appeal the penalties but decided to have Grubb and Sherrill start serving their suspensions this weekend.

About the author

Justin starts his second year with the Frontstretch in 2014, responsible for Sprint Cup news in our e-newsletter twice a week. Also a Frontstretch Power Rankings contributor, he acts as “super sub” filling in for various columns throughout the season. He resides out in Missouri.

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