NASCAR appeals panel upholds penalties on Hamlin hit on Chastain

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 7, 2023

By Pete Iacobelli

AP Sports Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Denny Hamlin’s penalties for hitting Ross Chastain from behind at Phoenix last month will stand, according to a decision Thursday by a NASCAR appeals panel.

Hamlin was fined $50,000 and docked 25 points after he acknowledged on his weekly podcast he intentionally wrecked Chastain on the last lap of the Phoenix race.

After hearing testimony on Hamlin’s appeal, the three-person National Motorsports Appeals panel chose to leave the penalties in place. Hamlin can appeal the decision to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer.

Hamlin had originally opted against an appeal before changing his mind. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was candid on his podcast, saying he wanted to put Chastain into the wall.

Hamlin finished the Phoenix race in 23rd place, with Chastain a spot behind in 24th.

Hamlin explained on his podcast a few days after the March 12 race that he was looking for the best possible finish and with Chastain’s car on his outside, he knew he might lose position without some action.

“I said, ‘You’re coming with me, buddy,’” Hamlin said on the broadcast. “That’s what I did. It wasn’t a mistake, no it wasn’t a mistake. I unleashed, I let the wheel go and said he’s coming with me.”

Hamlin hoped his appeal might go his way, like when three Hendrick Motorsports drivers were docked 100 points each for illegal modifications to supplier-provided parts on the Next Gen car. The docked points were restored by the appeals panel last week.

Instead, Hamlin will have to take his appeal to the next level for penalites to possibly be lessened.

Chastain, speaking at an event Wednesday at the South Carolina Governor’s Mansion, said he has moved on in the few weeks since the Hamlin hit.

“I’m just trying to keep my hands out of that cookie jar,” Chastain said. “That’s a cookie I don’t want to mess with. That’s his deal. I’m not involved. No one’s asking me and I’m on to bigger and better things.”

On Wednesday, an appeals panel lessened penalties assessed to Kaulig Racing owner Matt Kaulig, driver Justin Haley and crew chief Trent Owens, also given for illegally modified car parts.

Kaulig had his 100-point championship-owner points penalty reduced to 75 while Haley, docked 100 driver points, also saw that trimmed to 75.

The loss of 10 playoff points to the No. 31 and 10 playoff points to Haley was upheld, as was Owens’ four-race suspension and $100,000 fine.

Kaulig Racing announced shortly after it would go ahead with a final appeal, per NASCAR rules.

Hendrick drivers Bowman, Byron penalized by NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The Hendrick Motorsports teams of points leader Alex Bowman and two-time winner William Byron were penalized by NASCAR for violations found in the Richmond post-race inspections.

NASCAR said Thursday that the teams of Bowman and Byron will lose 60 points and five playoff points apiece.

Bowman’s interim crew chief Greg Ives and Byron’s interim crew chief Brian Campe were suspended for two races starting after this week’s dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The two were also fined $75,000 each for what NASCAR said were modifications to the greenhouse — or center area — of the car.

Both were already filling in while Rudy Fugle (Byron’s crew chief) and Blake Harris (Bowman’s crew chief) served four-race suspensions for violations at Phoenix last month.

The two cars were taken to NASCAR’s R&D facility following Richmond, a race won by Hendrick driver Kyle Larson.

Hendrick Motorsports said in a statement it was reviewing the latest penalties and will determine its “next steps” after the completion of the Bristol race.

Byron won events at Las Vegas and Phoenix this season.

Bowman fell from first to seventh in the NASCAR points standings while Byron dropped 10 spots to 14th after the penalties.

It’s not the first time this season Hendrick drivers have dealt with penalties. Three of its drivers in Bowman, Byron and past NASCAR champion Kyle Larson were docked 100 points and 10 playoff points each for violations at Phoenix. Those points were restored to the teams last week after Hendrick Motorsports won its appeal.

Hendrick Motorsports can appeal these penalties as well, per NASCAR rules.