Denny Hamlin dropped ballast weight on track in the Coca-Cola 600; Multiple suspensions likely per the NASCAR rule book
The NASCAR Cup Series unloaded at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The race at the Charlotte, NC track is the first of two for the series in the next 4 days.
Tonight, it’s the Coca-Cola 600. It’s a crown jewel NASCAR event, a highlight on the schedule.
The race is 600 miles and 400 laps. The longest race on the NASCAR calendar.
No. 11 drops weight on race track
Denny Hamlin went into a major hole, before the green flag even dropped. He was scheduled to roll off 13th, that didn’t happen.
As Hamlin pulled out to the track for the parade laps, his car dropped cargo. Two pieces of tungsten ballast weight jumped out of the frame rails, just as Hamlin entered the banking for the first time.
The weight was struck by other cars during the pace laps. Aric Almirola hit a piece with his left front splitter.
This is an impound event. The cars took to the track earlier for qualifying. After that, the cars were impounded and haven’t really been touched. It’s unclear how the weight didn’t fall out in that session.
Tungsten is a very expensive and heavy material. It’s used to make sure all the cars are the same weight and on a level playing field. Teams also use it to set the balance on the car.
But, dropping weight on the race track is a very serious violation. It typically draws heavy penalties.
In this case, NASCAR forced Hamlin to the pit lane just as the lights went out on the pace car. As Kurt Busch took the green flag, Hamlin remained on the pit lane.
He re-entered the race 8 laps down to the race leader. When the competition caution fell on lap 21, he went one more lap down.
The race is currently red flagged and on lap 50 of 400, as the series awaits a rain delay. Hamlin has a very long night ahead.
The race is currently about to resume.
Previous cases of weight falling from NASCAR race car
Losing tungsten has happened in the past. It’s brought serious NASCAR penalties.
Timmy Hill: Back in early 2015, the Premium Motorsports No. 98 Ford of Timmy Hill was handed a P3 penalty. NASCAR Cup Series crew chief Scott Eggleston and car chief Kevin Eagle was suspended for one race. Each of them were also placed on probation through the end of the year.
Eggleston was also fined $25,000. Car owner Mike Curb was docked 15 points.
Ross Chastain: Chastain lost weight from his car during a NASCAR Xfinity Series practice session at Iowa Speedway. The weight struck Jamie Dick’s car in the hood and the windshield before striking his helmet. He was uninjured in the crazy accident.
Crew chief Gary Cogswell was fined $15,000 after the incident. He was then placed on probation through December 31, 2015.
Peyton Sellers: Also in 2015, Sellers lost weight in a practice session. It caused Carl Long to crash.
After the incident, NASCAR suspended Xfinity crew chief John Monsam and car chief David Jones for one race. Monsam was also fined $15,000 and placed on probation. The team was penalized with 15 drivers and 15 owner points.
NASCAR increases penalty for lost ballast
In September 2015, NASCAR announced new penalty levels for the loss of ballast. It’s one of the more serious violations in the NASCAR rule book and typically brings heavy penalties to teams in violation.
A 2015 sanction release read, “A crew chief, car chief and head engineer will receive a minimum four-race suspension for ballast falling off the car.”
The rule book from 2015: “NASCAR has categorized certain serious safety infractions that create a significant risk of injury or damage (e.g. separation of ballast weight or wheel(s) from the vehicle) under the P3 category.”
The rule continues, “NASCAR considers such infractions to be very serious in nature and has therefore included pre-determined minimum Penalties to address the severity of such violations. NASCAR further reserves the right to escalate such safety related Penalties to higher Penalty levels when the infraction is considered to be more egregious in nature or displays a higher degree of negligent behavior.”
The crew chief, car chief and team engineer of Hamlin’s machine are likely to see a four race suspension. The penalty is also likely to include a hefty fine. A driver points docking as well as separate owner points penalty will likely be included as well.
Chris Gabehart is the crew chief on the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing machine.