Long Pond, Pa. — The sirens at the pool hall in Dawsonville, Georgia, that go off every time Chase Elliott wins a race Sunday night, the no-hometown star takes a lap at Pocono Raceway.
“Winner, winner Joe Gibbs Racing Cheats!” Dawsonville Pool Room tweeted.
In a rare decision for a NASCAR Cup Series race, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin threw out his Pocono win and runner-up and teammate Kyle Busch was also disqualified after the Toyotas failed.
Elliott moved up from third and the Hendrik Motorsport driver was awarded his fourth victory of the season. He never led a lap in the No. 9 Chevrolet — and even had his car inspected by NASCAR.
Hamlin lost his record seventh victory at Pocono and his third win of the season. Busch led a race-high 63 laps.
NASCAR believes the last time it disqualified an apparent winner was April 17, 1960, when Emmanuel Zervakis’ victory at Wilson Speedway in North Carolina was thrown out by a large fuel tank.
The penalty can be appealed and both Toyotas were sent to NASCAR’s research and development center in North Carolina for further testing. NASCAR said the violations were not caught in pre-race testing because the wraps were not removed from the cars until after the race.
“Some issues were discovered that affected the aero of the car,” NASCAR Cup Series managing director Brad Moran said. “There was really no reason why there was some material that shouldn’t have been there somewhere. And it basically comes down to a DQ.
Moran said the parts in question were the front fascia — essentially the nose cone — and final decisions “will be resolved by next week.”
Moran said that with the introduction of the new car this season, the “rules have tightened” on inspection. The latest version of NASCAR is pretty much a kit car. Teams get identical pieces from different vendors and have detailed instructions on how to put it together.
“We don’t want to talk about that issue here,” Moran said. “But the teams and the owners and everybody knew very well that this new car was going to be held to some tight tolerances. There are certain areas that all the teams know very well that we can’t go that route with another car in the past.
The setbacks marred what was a banner day for JGR.
Hamlin apparently won for the third time this season and passed Hall of Fame driver Jeff Gordon for the most wins at Pocono with seven. Hamlin swept two races at Pocono in his rookie season in 2006, and added wins in 2009, 2010, 2019 and 2020. Now, he’s tied with the four-time NASCAR champion.
Hamlin had plenty to handle from the start, when the polesitter tagged the wall on the opening lap. He recovered — there’s plenty of racing ahead at 400 miles on the 2 1/2-mile tri-oval — then Busch had to watch the lead for the majority of the race. Oh, then there was this lingering score-settling problem with Ross Chastain.
Chastain wrecked Hamlin twice in a month earlier this season — Hamlin tallied twice more than last season — and grew tired of the watermelon farmer’s aggressive driving. Hamlin refused to give his rival an inch away from the restart at Pocono and forced Chastain to the wall with 16 laps to go in the race. Chastain hit the wall and triggered a wreck that brought together several drivers, including winless Kevin Harvick, who are battling for a playoff spot.
“What did you want me to do? What did you expect me to do?” Hamlin asked immediately afterward.
Chastain, who has two wins for Trackhouse Racing this season, begrudgingly understood that was due to the timing.
“I think that’s something that’s been owed to me for a few months now,” Chastain said.
Hamlin got the last word — well, the latest word — but does it squash their beef? Probably not, as the wife of Chastain’s race team owner Justin Marks tweeted, “Game. On.”
Hamlin also lost a tie with former teammate Tony Stewart on NASCAR’s career wins list with 49.
“We’ve just been good friends and he’s definitely someone I look up to from a talent standpoint,” Hamlin said. “He was the guy who was in danger of winning 36 races, and I hope that happens someday.”
Hamlin is close: He’s a three-time Daytona 500 champion and part of the 23XI Racing team with Michael Jordan. About the only blemish on his resume is the championship he’s failed to win — and the first DQ of his Cup career.
Hamlin’s young daughter burst into tears of joy and he sent her to retrieve the flag. Taylor Hamlin grabbed the flag as she slid out the passenger-side window and took a victory lap around Pocono with dad at the wheel.
Hamlin tweeted a photo of his daughter holding the flag and wrote, “Yeah, good luck getting her back.”
That’s what NASCAR can say to him on his championship trophy.