Heavy fines, suspensions for Joe Gibbs Racing

HUNTERSVILLE – NASCAR officials came down hard on Joe Gibbs Racing.

The team was fined and two key members suspended after violations were found in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota two weeks ago during a post-race inspection at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The team was found to be using unsealed rear firewall blockoff plates, which protect a driver from smoke, fire or fluids. If air can flow through that part of a racecar, it could improve speed.

Crew chief Darian Grubb was fined $125,000 and suspended from NASCAR for six series championship events. Car chief Wesley Sherrill also was suspended for six races. He and Grubb were placed on probation for six months.

The No. 11 team had to forfeit 75 points in the driver standings (lowering Hamlin’s total) and 75 points in the owners’ points race. But Hamlin likely will be included in the Chase because of his victory earlier this season at Talladega.

 

Larson wins historic pole

HUNTERSVILLE – Kyle Larson became the first graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity initiative to win a pole in the sanctioning body’s top level when he captured the top spot at the Coors Light Pole at Pocono Raceway last weekend. Larson, 22, lives in Huntersville and is Japanese-American. In winning the pole, Larson set a track qualifying record with a lap of 183.4 mph.

 

Blaney to get Sprint Cup ride

HUNTERSVILLE – Ryan Blaney, the points leader in NASCAR’s Camping World truck series, will have limited role moving up to the Sprint Cup Series in 2015.

Blaney, 20, will drive the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford in a limited Cup schedule next season. Blaney will also drive Nationwide Series races for Team Penske as part of a technical alliance between Penske and the Wood Brothers. An announcement is expected at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 17. Blaney leads the Truck Series points driving the No. 29 Ford for Brad Keselowski Racing.

 

Kenseth’s spot in the standings remains solid

HUNTERSVILLE – Matt Kenseth is fourth in the Sprint Cup driver’s points race, despite being part of a 13-car crash that resulted in 38th-place finish at Pocono last week. He doesn’t have a victory that would automatically qualify him for the Chase, but has racked up enough points to solidify his spot in the season-ending playoff.

 

RACER RANKINGS

We rank Herald Weekly-area drivers in the racing world:

1. Joey Logano – Finished third in the Sprint Cup race at Pocono last week, his second straight top-five finish. He’s a solid championship contender.

2. Clint Bowyer – Was in contention all weekend at Pocono, and finished fourth in the Sprint Cup and Camping World truck series races.

3. Ryan Blaney – Huntersville resident finished fifth in the Camping World truck series race last week to move into the driver points race lead.

4. Matt Kenseth – An accident (and 38th place finish) ruined his day at Pocono, but he’s fourth in the Sprint Cup driver points standings.

5. Kyle Larson – Likely will be the NASCAR Rookie of the Year. He’s been solid in he Nationwide series and his past three Sprint Cup finishes have been 11th, seventh and third places.