LONG POND, Pa. — In a stunning turn of events, two Joe Gibbs Racing drivers were disqualified after Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway, handing the win to third-place finisher Chase Elliott.
Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch finished 1st and 2nd in the M&M's Fan Appreciation 400 but are now relegated 35th and 36th, respectively.
“There was some issues discovered that affect aero in the vehicle,” NASCAR Cup Series managing director Brad Moran said, according to NASCAR.com. “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.”
Hamlin led the field during the M&M's Fan Appreciation 400's final restart on Lap 148 and never looked back. Safely away in his rearview mirror was his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, who seemed poised to win on Sunday after leading a race-high 63 laps and capturing a Stage 2 win.
However, it was Hamlin stealing the show, not just by winning but by adding fuel to the rivalry between him and Ross Chastain as the two ran on the front row during the race's penultimate restart.
As both drivers exited Turn 1, Hamlin held the advantage and forced Chastain into the outside wall. The contact halted Chastain and created a crash involving Kevin Harvick and Christopher Bell.
Following the race, Hamlin was asked about the contact with Chastain and said he had it coming.
"What did you want me to do? We got position on him and he just ran out of race track," said Hamlin. "We're gonna race hard until we get the respect back from these guys."
Chastain was dejected following the incident but noticeably humble.
"I've been owed that, and probably some more for a few months now," said Chastain.
When Hamlin exited his car after a celebratory burnout, he made a sleeping gesture to the crowd as a barrage of boos was heard toward him.
However, Hamlin's win is now void and Elliott has garnered his fourth victory of the season.
Elliott started 3rd, led 0 laps, and ran around the Top 10 throughout the day.
It was a day of constant action at The Tricky Triangle that featured multiple spins throughout the day.
Austin Cindric, Aric Almirola, Josh Bilicki, and even race winner Denny Hamlin brought out cautions for spins throughout the day.
Almirola's culminated in an interesting rulebook check scenario where after his spin on the front straightaway, he entered pit road driving the wrong way to service his car as the field was cycling through pit stops.
Almirola was only penalized for a commitment line violation and forced to restart at the end of the longest line, likely a better position than he would have been in had he driven the whole way around the track with a flat tire under caution. Almirola finished 15th.
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The most notable single-car incident occurred on Lap 139 when Ryan Blaney slammed the pit road wall hard on the front straightaway while running in the Top 10. Blaney walked away from the crash but finished 35th.
The win would have been Hamlin's seventh at Pocono and made him the winningest NASCAR Cup Series driver at the triangle. He remains tied with Jeff Gordon with six wins at the track. Busch is the winningest active driver closest to Hamlin with four wins at Pocono.
After the disqualification, the rest of the Top 10 included Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suárez, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Martin Truex Jr., and Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones, and Austin Dillon respectively.
Sunday's race also featured a notable Cup Series debut for Ty Gibbs. The Xfinity Series star stepped in the No.45 23XI McDonald's Car for an injured Kurt Busch and finished a solid 16th place.
Elliott continues to lead the regular season point standings and the playoff point standings.
At the bottom of the playoff bracket remains Truex, safe for one more week in one of two playoff spots occupied by a driver yet to win this year along with Blaney. Truex is 84 points ahead of Harvick with five races remaining before the NASCAR playoffs begin.
Next week, NASCAR heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon 200 at the track's road course configuration.