Elliott given Pocono win after Hamlin, Busch disqualified

Dan Gelston
Associated Press

LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — The siren at the Dawsonville, Georgia, pool hall that sounds whenever Chase Elliott wins a race did indeed go off Sunday night without the hometown star ever leading a lap at Pocono Raceway.

“Winner, winner Joe Gibbs Racing are cheaters!” the Dawsonville Pool Room tweeted.

In an extraordinary decision for a NASCAR Cup Series race, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin had his Pocono win thrown out and runner-up and teammate Kyle Busch also was disqualified after their Toyotas failed inspections.

Elliott shot up from third place and the Hendrick Motorsports driver was awarded his fourth victory of the season. He never led a lap in the No. 9 Chevrolet — and his car also was 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 believed the last time it disqualified an apparent winner was April 17, 1960, when Emanuel Zervakis’ victory at Wilson Speedway in North Carolina was thrown out because of an oversized fuel tank.

The penalties can be appealed and both Toyotas were sent to NASCAR's research and development center in North Carolina for further evaluation. NASCAR said the infractions were not caught in the pre-race inspection because the wrap was not removed from the cars until after the race.

NASCAR Cup Series managing director Brad Moran explains during a news conference that the first and second place cars of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were disqualified giving Chase Elliott the win of the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Pocono Raceway, Sunday, July 24, 2022, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Dan Gelston)

“There was some issues discovered that affect aero in the vehicle,” NASCAR Cup Series managing director Brad Moran said. “There really was no reason why there was some material that was somewhere it shouldn't have been. And that does basically come down to a DQ.”

Moran said the parts in question were the front fascia —essentially the nose cone — and final decisions “should be sorted out by next week.”

Moran said the inspection “rules have tightened up” with the introduction this season of a new car. NASCAR’s newest version is pretty much a kit car. Teams get all the same pieces from varying vendors and have detailed instructions regarding how to put it together.

“We don't want to be here talking about this problem,” Moran said. “But the teams and the owners and everybody was well aware that this new car was going to be kept with some pretty tight tolerances. There's some areas that all the teams are well aware that we can not go down the path that we had in the past with the other car.”

The failures marred what had been a banner day for JGR.

Taylor James Hamlin, left, waves the checker flag from inside the car with her dad, Denny Hamlin after he won the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Pocono Raceway, Sunday, July 24, 2022, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Hamlin had seemingly won for the third time this season and passed Hall of Fame driver Jeff Gordon for 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 remains tied with the four-time NASCAR champion.

Hamlin had plenty to handle from the start, when the pole sitter tagged the wall on the opening lap. He recovered — at 400 miles on the 2 1/2-mile tri-oval there’s plenty of racing ahead — then had to watch Busch lead the majority of the race. Oh, then there was this thorny issue of settling a lingering score with Ross Chastain.

Chastain wrecked Hamlin two times in a month earlier this season — Hamlin counted two more times from last season — and was fed-up with the aggressive driving of the watermelon farmer. Hamlin refused to give his rival an inch off a restart at Pocono and forced Chastain into the wall with 16 laps left in the race. Chastain slammed the wall and triggered a wreck that collected several drivers, including winless Kevin Harvick, who is fighting for a playoff spot.

“What did you want me to do? What did you expect me to do,” Hamlin asked in the immediate aftermath.

Chastain, who has two wins this season driving for Trackhouse Racing, sheepishly understood comeuppance was due.

No. 9 driver Chase Elliot was declared winner of the M&Ms Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, July 24, 2022 after cars driven by Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch failed a post-race inspection.
Chase Elliott drives through Turn 1 during the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Pocono Raceway, Sunday, July 24, 2022, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

“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? Perhaps not, as the wife of Chastain’s race team owner Justin Marks tweeted, “Game. On.”

Hamlin also lost his tie with former teammate Tony Stewart on NASCAR’s career wins list with 49.

“We’ve just been good friends and he’s certainly someone that I look up to from a talent standpoint,” Hamlin said. “He was the guy that for 36 races was a threat to win, and that’s what I hope to be some day.”

Hamlin is pretty close: He’s a three-time Daytona 500 champion and part owner of 23XI Racing 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 checkered flag. Taylor Hamlin clutched the flag as she slid through the passenger’s 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 he wrote, “Yeah, good luck getting that back.”

NASCAR could say the same to him over his championship trophy.

Ty game

Ty Gibbs finished 16th for 23XI Racing in his first career Cup start subbing for the injured Kurt Busch.

Busch suffered a head injury during a hard hit Saturday in qualifying and was not cleared to race by NASCAR’s medical staff. That opened the door for the 19-year-old Gibbs. In a pinch, the grandson of Joe Gibbs wore Busch’s firesuit and Hamlin’s shoes.

“I never thought I’d race with these guys,” Gibbs said. “It was just cool being next to them on the track. To 10-year-old Ty, that means a lot.”

Grandpa Joe was pretty proud.

“He was discouraged that he couldn’t get more out of it,” Gibbs said. “I think he realizes how tough it is.”

No deal

Gibbs remained concerned JGR has yet to reach a new contact with Kyle Busch.

“We had a couple of companies, we thought (were in) that wound up to be disappointments for us,” Gibbs said. “But it is hard and it is discouraging.”

UP NEXT: IndyCar and NASCAR share next weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. IndyCar races Saturday on the road course; NASCAR races Sunday.

Dan Gelston is a Sports Writer with the Associated Press.

Highlights from the M&M's Fan Appreciation 400

6:08 p.m.: The caution comes out as Ross Chastain (No. 1), then leading, makes light contact with Denny Hamlin (No. 11). Chastain tries to squeeze past, but doesn't have enough road to retain his lead and kisses the wall. Chastain then spun out of control and came in contact with Kevin Harvick in No. 4.

With 16 laps to go, Harvick pulls into Pit Road to assess any damage. The No. 1 car could be seen being towed off the track.

Kyle Busch (No. 18) sails into second position, with Chase Elliot (No. 9) in third with just 15 laps left in the race.

5:52 p.m.: Ryan Blaney (No. 12) loses control and spins off of Turn 3 as the caution comes out and No. 12 hits the recently-extended inside wall at Pocono Raceway. The safety team heads out to the track to assess the damage to the car. Blaney climbs out of his car and the crowd errupts into applause.

5:50 p.m.: Gibbs's rally is short-lived. With 25 laps to go, Ross Chastain (No. 1) Denny Hamlin (No. 11) and Kyle Busch (No. 18) recover for the top three spots. Kevin Harvick (No. 4) now sits in 4th place.

5:43 p.m.: Nineteen-year-old Ty Gibbs, riding in place of Kurt Busch in the No. 45 car, makes his way to the front, gaining ground as he achieves the 4th spot with less than 31 laps to go.

5:41 p.m.: No caution comes out as No. 17 spins out. Denny Hamlin in No. 11 concedes his lead, and Bubba Wallace (No. 23) moves to the front of the pack, but the lead is brief has he rolls into Pit Road.

5:35 p.m. With less than 38 laps to go, Kyle Busch in car No. 18 gives up his lead to make his way to Pit Road. Ross Chastain in car No. 1 briefly took the lead before turning into Pit Road himself. Denny Hamlin in car No. 11 takes the lead, with Bubba Wallace (No. 23) encroaching

5:07 p.m.: By the end of the final lap, Kyle Busch (No. 18) secured Stage 2. Ryan Blaney (No. 12) surpassed Ross Chastain (No. 1) for second.

5:05 p.m.: Bubba Wallace (No. 23) and Kyle Busch (No. 18) battled it out for the first position, with Busch securing a comfortable lead by 5 p.m. Ross Chastain in No. 1 and Ryan Blaney in No. 12 have been vying for second with two laps to go in the second stage.

4 p.m.: Denny Hamlin (No. 11) is on his way to pit road after he spins out on the 12th lap. Pit crews can be seen changing his tires.

3:55 p.m.: The third caution of the day occurs when Josh Bilicki (No. 77) makes contact with the wall after an apparent issue with his right rear wheel or tire. Bilicki then spun out and took a big hit. Crews and an ambulance made their way onto the track at the Tricky Triangle to assess the situation.

3:45 p.m.: Harrison Burton (No. 21) led the restart as drivers headed into the second stage of today's M&M's Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway. Kyle Larson (No. 5), who took the first stage, falls back to 11th.

Larson (No. 5) took the first stage, followed by Chase Elliot (No. 9) and Denny Hamlin in No. 11. Hamlin qualified for the pole position on Saturday.

3:35 p.m.: Nineteen-year-old Ty Gibbs is racing in Kurt Busch's stead after the No. 45 driver suffered what he called "concussion-like" symptoms after spinning out and slamming into a safety barrier during Saturday's qualifying session. Gibbs came in second in yesterday's Xfinity race. Noah Gragson took first in that contest, and is also driving in today's Cup Series race in the No. 16 Camaro ZL1 for Kaulig Racing. With three laps to go in the first stage, Gragson moves up to 23rd while Gibbs hangs out in 31st.

The caution comes out at 3:38 p.m. as Eric Almirola in No. 10 sustains a flat.

3:17 p.m.: Austin Cindric (No. 2) sustains at least one flat tire and is towed in for maintenance. After a speedy tire change, Cindric is back on the road for the restart.

3:10 p.m.: Denny Hamlin kisses the wall on the first corner. The No.11 driver is seeking his seventh win at the Tricky Triangle. By the fifth lap, Hamlin is coasting in fourth. Kyle Busch (No. 18) has taken the lead, followed by No. 9 driver Chase Elliot and No. 5 driver Kyle Larson.

2:45 p.m.: Gold Star Family member Talia Walsh sang an emotional rendition of the National Anthem, accompanied by Taylor Beagle, of Scranton School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, who returned to the stage once again to provide live sign language interpretation.

NASCAR warns of potential inclement weather at Pocono

Fans will have to wait just a little while longer for today's M&M's Fan Appreciation 400 to begin.

"Due to the potential for inclement weather this afternoon, today's green flag at @PoconoRaceway has been moved up to 3:05 PM ET," NASCAR tweeted at around 1:10 p.m.

Weather forecasts predict partially cloud skies in Long Pond, Pa. with at least 15% chance of rain until about 8 p.m.

Kurt Busch not cleared to compete in Fan Appreciation 400

LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Kurt Busch was not cleared by NASCAR’s medical staff to compete in Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway and the 23XI Racing driver was replaced by 19-year-old Ty Gibbs. The 43-year-old Busch tweeted he suffered from “concussion-like symptoms” from a hit suffered during Saturday’s qualifying session. Busch has made 776 career Cup starts, is the 2004 series champion and in his first season driving for a team co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin. His No. 45 Chevrolet spun on Saturday and slammed into NASCAR’s protective safer barriers.

Gibbs conceded a loss at yesterday's Explore the Pocono Mountains 225 to Noah Gragson. Gragson will also be driving in today's M&M's Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono.

— The Pocono Record contributed to this report.

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