RFK Racing Reveals Real Challenge Due to #11 After Denny Hamlin’s Heated Radio Exchange

When Mother Nature intervened at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Christopher Bell emerged as the fortunate race leader. The rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 handed Bell his second win of the 2024 Cup Series season, but it also brought pit road into the spotlight.

Denny Hamlin, driving the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Mavis Tire Toyota Camry, faced challenges exiting his pit stall due to Chris Buescher’s positioning. Buescher parked early in his stall, obstructing Hamlin’s path. During the first caution on lap 89, Hamlin lost five spots in the running order as he maneuvered around Buescher. The situation repeated itself on lap 202, costing Hamlin four more positions.

There was some drama between Denny Hamlin and Chris Buescher during a pit challenge. Pit stops are crucial moments in a race, where every second counts. Tempers can flare, especially when positions are at stake. Hamlin, known for his intensity, had a heated exchange with Buescher, adding fuel to the fire of their rivalry.

Hamlin asks his crew chief, Chris Gabehart, to go over to Buescher’s pit and demand they do something. Gabehart’s response is both stern and humorous: “Brother, if I do anything more than I’ve already done, we’re going to FIGHT! Do you understand? I’ve done all I can do!” But Hamlin isn’t backing down. He replies, “That’s what I’m going to do next time. Do you hear me, 17? Park in your Go**amn box! I will stomp on your bumper!” 

But that’s not all. Recently, the team shared a post on X that caught everyone’s attention. The man with “HOPS” was none other than Dalton Leonard, the rear tire changer for the No. 17 car. During a pit stop on Sunday, Leonard had to jump over the No. 11’s right front tire to begin servicing his own car. It’s moments like these that showcase the agility and precision required in the high-pressure environment of pit stops.

During a weather delay, Hamlin and Buescher engaged in a civil discussion about their pit stall dilemma. Crew chiefs Gabehart and Scott Graves joined in, trying to find common ground. Cooler heads prevailed, but the tension remained.

Buescher, too, faced difficulties exiting his pit box due to John Hunter Nemechek’s shallow parking in the stall ahead of him. Buescher expressed his frustration with Nemechek, adding some colorful language to the mix.

Interestingly, Nemechek received an uncontrolled tire penalty during that same pit stop. Both Hamlin and Buescher attempted in-race adjustments to resolve the issue. The No. 11 crew even set up a new tape mark a few feet behind Hamlin’s original parking spot to improve pit stops.

Throwback: Denny Hamlin vs. Chase Elliott at the Coca-Cola 600

On that fateful evening, as the sun dipped below the horizon, the Coca-Cola 600 roared to life. Denny Hamlin, piloting the No. 11 Toyota, and Chase Elliott, behind the wheel of the No. 9 Chevrolet, were locked in a fierce duel for position. Lap 185 would forever etch their names into NASCAR lore.

Exiting Turn 4, Hamlin’s car slid high, leaving him vulnerable. Elliott seized the opportunity, diving to the inside. But fate had other plans. The two cars made contact—Elliott’s No. 9 right-rear quarter panel met Hamlin’s No. 11, sending him nose-first into the unforgiving wall. The crowd gasped; the tension was palpable.

Hamlin minced no words after the crash. “He right-rear hooked me down the straightaway,” he declared, drawing parallels to a similar incident involving Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson in the previous season. Wallace’s suspension for intentionally wrecking Larson served as a precedent, and Hamlin believed Elliott should face the same discipline.

Elliott, however, denied any ill intent. “Once you hit the wall in these things, you can’t drive them anymore,” he explained. His No. 9 Chevrolet bore the scars of battle, and he attributed the contact to the damage. No retaliation, just an unfortunate circumstance, he maintained.

NASCAR took notice. A spokesperson confirmed an investigation into the incident, leaving fans and pundits speculating about potential penalties. Meanwhile, the clash between Hamlin and Elliott added a layer of drama to an already rain-shortened race.

As the dust settled, opinions divided. Was it a tantrum or a racing incident? Should Elliott be sidelined?

Denny Hamlin’s Demand and NASCAR’s Verdict: The Chase Elliott Suspension

In the aftermath of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Denny Hamlin didn’t mince words. He demanded that Chase Elliott face suspension for their on-track clash. But what led to this heated exchange?

During the race, Hamlin and Elliott found themselves entangled. Exiting Turn 4, Elliott’s car scraped the wall, and in the ensuing chaos, he made contact with Hamlin’s right rear. Hamlin’s frustration was palpable: “He right-rear hooked me in the middle of the straightaway,” he declared. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week.”

NASCAR took the incident seriously. Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, examined all available resources, including SMT (Steering, Throttle, Braking) data. And their conclusion? Elliott intentionally turned into Hamlin’s car. Hendrick Motorsports chose not to appeal the penalty, and Chase Elliott faced a one-race suspension.

The SMT data, shared by Hamlin, revealed Elliott’s steering input at the moment of impact. It left no room for doubt: Elliott had deliberately caused the collision. While Elliott claimed his car wouldn’t steer after hitting the wall, NASCAR’s verdict stood firm.

NASCAR officials took swift action, citing Sections 4.3.A and 4.4.C & D of the NASCAR Member Code of Conduct. These sections address proper conduct and actions detrimental to stock car racing. Elliott’s suspension extended through the next Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, emphasized the seriousness of the incident. He stated that drivers must handle on-track conflicts differently, avoiding actions that endanger fellow competitors. Elliott, who missed several races earlier in the season due to injury, faced his seventh race absence.

Hendrick Motorsports confirmed that Corey LaJoie would drive the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in Elliott’s absence. The penalty would not be appealed, and the team planned to request a playoff waiver.

Chase Elliott’s waiver for suspension and injury raised ask for Kyle Larson’s waiver by missing Coke 600 in 2024

NASCAR granted Elliott a playoff waiver, allowing him to remain eligible despite missing the race. It wasn’t his first waiver of the season; an earlier leg injury had also triggered one.

Elliott, the 2020 Cup Series champion, sought redemption. His path to the playoffs remained open, albeit with a cloud of controversy. Larson aimed to achieve the elusive double—running both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. A feat not attempted since Kurt Busch in 2014.

Rain disrupted Larson’s plans. The Indy 500 start was delayed by four hours, leaving him scrambling to Charlotte for the 600.  Larson arrived but didn’t get behind the wheel due to rain halting the 600 after 249 laps. Justin Allgaier stepped in and finished 13th.

NASCAR rules dictate that drivers must start every race to be playoff-eligible. Larson’s playoff points were at stake. NASCAR deliberated, leaving Larson’s status uncertain. Would they grant him a waiver?

Denny Hamlin Advocates for Kyle Larson’s Playoff Waiver Despite Missing Coca-Cola 600

NASCAR rules dictate that drivers must start every race to be eligible for the playoffs. However, the sanctioning body has historically been generous with playoff waivers. In Larson’s case, the likelihood of a waiver influenced his decision to stay for the Indy 500. NASCAR eventually granted him the waiver, allowing him to remain eligible for the playoffs despite missing the Coca-Cola 600.

Denny Hamlin, a veteran driver and Larson’s competitor, weighed in on the situation. Denny Hamlin believes that NASCAR should give Larson the waiver, emphasizing that the sanctioning body’s leniency has been consistent over the past decade.

On the recent episode of ‘Actions Detrimental’ Denny Hamlin said, “They (JGR employees) said, ‘Do you think he should get a waiver?’ I said quickly, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ They’re like, ‘Really? So what if you wanna go race the Le Mans next year, should you get a waiver?’ I said, ‘Hmm, that’s a good point. I didn’t think about it like that.”

Then Hamlin cemented his argument by assigning a higher status to the Indy 500. “What defines a major event? …Now again, if Kyle wasn’t missing this to go to a high-limit race…You know, he was missing this to do the Indy 500 and the Coke 600. I don’t know how NASCAR feels…But I think it would be hard for you to convince me that the Coke 600 is the bigger event than the Indy 500.”

In 2015, Kyle Busch received a waiver after suffering multiple leg injuries in an Xfinity Series race, ultimately winning the Cup Series title. Similarly, Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch received waivers due to injuries and suspensions, respectively. Even Chase Elliott, after a suspension for an on-track incident, received a waiver in 2023.

Denny Hamlin’s advocacy for Larson’s waiver extends beyond the racetrack. He hinted at his own ambitions outside of NASCAR, suggesting that he might consider participating in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2025. Hamlin recognizes that racing opportunities beyond the Cup Series can enrich a driver’s career and broaden their horizons.

As the playoff season approaches, Larson’s chances of securing a second Cup Series title remain intact. NASCAR’s decision to grant the waiver acknowledges the unique circumstances he faced during that rainy May weekend. Whether Larson can capitalize on this opportunity and contend for the championship remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: Denny Hamlin believes that sometimes, rules should bend to accommodate exceptional circumstances.

FAQs

  1. Is Denny Hamlin considering Chase Elliott a championship contender in 2024?
    • Yes, Denny Hamlin believes Chase Elliott is a serious championship contender in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series. He praised Elliott’s recent victory, emphasizing that it was a legitimate race win and could boost his confidence.
  2. What happened during the incident between Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott at Texas?
    • During a race at Martinsville in 2017, Denny Hamlin collided with Chase Elliott, preventing Elliott from securing his first career Cup victory. Hamlin took responsibility for the incident, which changed the outcome of the race.
  3. How did Denny Hamlin react to the recent wreck while battling Chase Elliott for a win?
    • After a disappointing 30th-place finish in Texas, Hamlin discussed the incident. He acknowledged that it wasn’t Elliott’s fault and took the blame for the wreck.
  4. Why does Denny Hamlin consider Chase Elliott’s win a significant achievement?
    • Hamlin praised Elliott’s “legitimate race win” at Texas, emphasizing that winning in such a manner can boost a driver’s self-confidence and make them a championship threat.
  5. What does Chase Elliott think about Denny Hamlin’s controversial take on championships?
    • Chase Elliott understands Hamlin’s argument that races happen weekly, while championships occur only once a year. He acknowledges that the title stands out more when one walks away from the sport.
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