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Denny Hamlin's crew chief revolts against possible punishment from NASCAR with a 9-word demand

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As Denny Hamlins Its popularity is growing, as are its haters. From winning his first stock car race at the tender age of 16 to winning his 53rd career Cup victory last Sunday at Richmond, JGR's No. 11 driver has seen it all, experienced it all and beaten it all to secure his first bill in the French Cup.

Still, boos and controversy surround Hamlin at every checkered flag, and the Toyota Owners 400 was no different. An early jump on the final restart was the topic of the hour, keeping the No. 11 team's fifth Richmond triumph on the mind of the crew chief Chris Gabehart didn't sound happy on SiriusXM's NASCAR Radio.

Crew chief Chris Gabehart defends Denny Hamlin's move, calling it 'calculated, no penalty'

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In 2018, Denny suffered his first winless season and went on a 47-race winning streak. The No. 11 hit a lull until Gabehart joined the team in 2019 and gave Hamlin his second Daytona 500 victory while leading the No. 11 Toyota to five more victories that season. Gabehart has been a key factor in Denny's consistent performance over the past five years, and the support was evident as he made his feelings clear during the early restart.

Echoing Hamlin's initial sentiments from a recent episode of Actions Detrimental, crew chief No. 11 said, “They're all really smart racers, and as they approach the restart zone there's a game of chess going on that each of them is aware of. You don't make mistakes. They are taking a calculated approach and Denny, as the leader, is trying to counteract that by having the advantage of being the first to shoot.”

In addition to all the opinions, Gabehart admitted that the jump was “a little out of the zone.” However, with a quick explanation he countered all claims for a punishment, “But remember. This all happens live with four veterans. You know the situation he is in and calculate based on that. I think the most important thing I can say is that we're in a tough spot… And it wouldn't matter if the No. 11 car was in that position or if we were the No. 19 or the No. 22 were. I would say the same thing, so let me clarify. In this case, if you penalize car number 11, You also have to punish number 19, number 22 and number 5.”

Why do they all have to be punished? Gabehart had a convincing explanation, similar to Denny Hamlin's.

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As the #11 driver explained on Actions Detrimental earlier this week, he didn't want to give up the “advantage of being the leader.” Even NASCAR vice president Elton Sawyer seemed to agree, recently clarifying the controversy surrounding Richmond's reboot rip-off on FOX. When explaining the final restart of overtime, Sawyer said that Hamlin actually “earned the right to be the control vehicle,” in front of his teammate, lap leader and a clearly angry one Martin Truex Jr.

Nevertheless, Gabehart continued to stir up controversy. He concluded by explaining Denny Hamlin's real reasons for jumping into the restart zone early: Because they (#19, #22, #5) were all sitting back and trying to time a run, and that’s also something NASCAR says you can’t do.” the No. 11 crew chief argued against his team's recent critics.

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From Joey Logano to MTJ himself, Denny Hamlin has taken his fair share of criticism, to say the least, as Martinsville prepares for the season. Will the “hate” affect his final race win? That seems unlikely as the number 11's battle for championship glory in 2024 continues to gain momentum.