NASCAR announced Tuesday that three members of Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 team, including crew chief Jonathan Hassler, will be suspended for the next four Cup Series races after an improperly installed wheel fell off of their car last weekend at Bristol. Blaney will now be without his crew chief for the entire Round of 12 of the NASCAR playoffs as well as the opening race of the Round of 8.
Midway through Stage 1 at Bristol, Blaney was taken out of a spot at the front of the field when he was forced to come to pit road with a flat tire. After his pit stop, things got worse for Blaney when he drove out of his stall with a left rear wheel that had been left loose — Blaney’s crew attempted to alert him to the loose wheel, but too late as the left rear wheel fell off the car and rolled into Austin Dillon’s pit stall, knocking down equipment and scattering crew members still working over the wall. Blaney would go on to finish 162 laps down in 30th after suffering suspension damage.
On Friday, multiple outlets reported that Team Penske will appeal the penalty, which affected Hassler as well as rear tire changer Zachary Price and jack man Graham Stoddard. Penske’s appeal defers the suspensions which allows Blaney to have his usual crew this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in the first race of the Round of 12.
The prospect of Blaney losing multiple crewmembers comes at an enormously inconvenient time, as he was able to advance to the Round of 12 despite his issues at Bristol and is entering a stretch of tracks that could potentially offer him his first win of the 2022 season. Blaney won the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway in May, and he has also previously won at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.
Following the points reset to begin the Round of 12, Blaney is currently the final driver above the cut line to advance to the Round of 8 by four points over Chase Briscoe.