Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Denny Hamlin, AJ Allmendinger lose crew chiefs to four-race suspensions over lost wheels at Dover

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After Monday’s race at Dover Motor Speedway saw two teams lose an improperly-installed wheel, NASCAR announced Tuesday that Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Chris Gabehart and Kaulig Racing crew chief Matt Swiderski have been suspended for the next four races. Both Gabehart and Swiderski had wheel failures on their teams’ cars. 

Gabehart, the crew chief for Gibbs’ No. 11 team and driver Denny Hamlin, oversaw a pit stop at the end of Stage 1 that resulted in Hamlin’s left front wheel falling off and rolling down the track at the exit of pit road. Swiderski, crew chief for Kaulig’s No. 16, was atop the pit box for a green flag pit stop that was shortly followed by the right front wheel of AJ Allmendinger’s caution falling off, sending it up the banking in Turns 1 and 2 and bringing out a caution at Lap 325.

Gabehart and Swiderski, along with Gibbs pit crew members Derrell Edwards and Blake Houston and Kaulig pit crew members Keiston France and Jonathan Willard, are all suspended through the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. According to Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports, Joe Gibbs Racing has appealed the suspensions, requesting and receiving a deferral of them until the appeal is heard.

The suspensions handed out to the Gibbs teams are curious, as Blake Houston’s suspension came despite him not being responsible for the loose wheel. While Houston was suspended because he is listed as the front tire changer for the No. 11, a new pit stop choreography being employed by the Gibbs teams meant that rear tire changer Mike Hicks was responsible for installing the left front wheel that fell off. As of Wednesday afternoon, NASCAR has yet to address this technicality.

In addition to the penalties of Gabehart and Swiderski, the suspension of two other crew chiefs in the NASCAR Xfinity Series were announced on NASCAR’s penalty report. Taylor Moyer, crew chief for JR Motorsports’ No. 1 team and driver Sam Mayer, was suspended after an improperly-installed wheel on Mayer’s car fell off in Saturday’s race. Jason Houghtaling, who recently worked as crew chief for Jesse Iwuji Motorsports before being fired after eight races, was suspended indefinitely for behavioral reasons.

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