NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott through the next Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway, officials announced Tuesday.
In this week’s penalty report, officials ruled Elliott intentionally crashed Denny Hamlin on Lap 186 of Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, turning left into Hamlin’s right-rear quarter panel and sending the No. 11 Toyota head-on into the outside SAFER barrier on the front straightaway after a squeeze from Hamlin led Elliott to brushing the wall at the exit of Turn 4.
Officials cited Sections 4.3.A and 4.4.C & D of the NASCAR Member Code of Conduct laid out in the NASCAR Rule Book in Elliott’s suspension. Section 4.3.A cites NASCAR member conduct and states “correct and proper conduct, both on and off the race track, is part of a member’s responsibilities.” Section 4.4.C lists “removing another competitor from championship contention in a dangerous manner when not racing for position based on the available evidence and specific circumstances of the incident” as one of two actions that could result in a penalty, including race suspension(s). Listed as an example in the rule book is “clearly forcing another competitor into the wall in an abrupt and unambiguous manner,” while Section 4.4.D lists “actions by a NASCAR member that NASCAR finds to be detrimental to stock car racing or NASCAR” as an action that could result in a fine and/or indefinite suspension.
“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, after looking at all the available resources … it was an intentional act by Chase, in our opinion, after reviewing all the available resources there.
“In the heat of the battle, things happen, but drivers needs to understand you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way.”
Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, is set to miss his seventh race of the 2023 season. The 2020 Cup champion suffered a broken left leg in a snowboarding accident in March, sidelining him for six races until his return on April 16 at Martinsville Speedway. Josh Berry filled in for the five oval events Elliott missed, scoring a career-best second-place finish on April 2 at Richmond Raceway. Jordan Taylor made his Cup debut as Elliott’s substitute at Circuit of The Americas, where he qualified fourth and finished 24th.
Hendrick Motorsports released the following statement regarding the suspension:
“We understand NASCAR’s need to maintain consistency in its officiating. The penalty will not be appealed, and we will submit a formal request for a playoff waiver. Corey LaJoie, 31, will drive the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. We are grateful to Corey for stepping in and to the team at Spire Motorsports for making him available.”
Front Row Motorsports’ No. 34 team was also penalized after Monday’s race when the right-front tire detached from the vehicle at Lap 344, a violation detailed in Sections 18.104.22.168.C in the NASCAR Rule Book, pertaining to loss or separation of an improperly installed tire/wheel from the vehicle. NASCAR suspended front-tire changer Scott Brzozowski and jackman Adam Lewis for the next two races.
In the Xfinity Series, Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Jeff Meendering was fined $5,000 after the No. 18 Toyota was found with one lug nut not securely fastened following Monday’s Alsco Uniforms 300. The penalty falls under Sections 22.214.171.124a in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rule Book, which states, “all tire(s)/wheel(s) and all five lug nuts must be installed in a safe and secure manner during the event.”
Additionally, the No. 74 CHK Racing team was docked 10 owners points while driver Dawson Cram was docked 10 driver points. Officials cited Sections 126.96.36.199.G & H of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rule Book for the penalty, addressing the quarter window and NASCAR-mandated NACA duct and outlet hose that must be used at all ovals 1.33 miles and longer.
Derek Hartnagel, truck chief for the No. 43 GMS Racing team, was issued an indefinite suspension. The penalty report references Sections 4.1 and 10.1.A of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rule Book, which addresses NASCAR’s substance abuse policy and actions detrimental to stock car racing or NASCAR, respectively.