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But the next six races for Hamlin weren't going to be all that important anyway. Now Grubb can spend more time getting Chase cars ready at the team's shop, which might be a blessing in disguise.

The plates block off help protect a driver from smoke, fire and fluids, but if airflow is allowed it could improve a car's aerodynamics.

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Maybe Grubb felt he could take a chance at Indianapolis. Hamlin's car was running so slowly on Saturday, the driver told ESPN it didn't have enough airtime for him to list everything that was wrong with it.

By Sunday, Hamlin had a fast car and solid finish. Was the performance related to the infraction?

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Had this penalty happened one week later, it would have seemed more severe. After all, every driver would prefer to start the playoffs with his crew chief there, and a six week suspension would have meant Grubb missed the Chase opener.

all of which were spelled out as maximum punishments for a "P5" infraction in the nifty chart NASCAR unveiled before the season.

Grubb and Sherrill will miss the rest of the regular season but return for the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway (They'll begin Converse Red High Cut

Teams had been leaving the covers on the rear firewall loose in order to leak high pressure air from under the car into the cockpit. But NASCAR told the teams prior to Indianapolis they would have to tape up the openings and halt that practice.

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Hamlin lost 75 points, crew chief Darian Grubb and car chief Wesley Sherrill were suspended for six weeks and Grubb was fined $125,000 Converse Brown Shoes

not the case today.

NASCAR found the No. 11 team violated several parts of the rulebook pertaining to the rear firewall, including one that said: "Block off plates/covers must be installed with positive fasteners and sealed to prevent air leakage."

CHARLOTTE Denny Hamlin and his No. 11 team received the first major sanctions under NASCAR's new penalty structure Tuesday for unsealed rear firewall block off plates at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

serving their suspensions immediately in order to ensure that happens, even though JGR said it plans to appeal).

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Although Hamlin drops from 11th in the standings to 21st, what really matters is he's still well inside the top 30 the minimum requirement for any Converse Oil Slick White Chase driver. And with only six races to go, Hamlin isn't going to suddenly plummet to 31st even without Grubb at the track (he's still 213 points ahead of 31st place David Gilliland).

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Hamlin's penalty is major but impact relatively minor

Under the old playoff qualifying system, dropping 75 points at this time of the year would have been crushing for a team in Hamlin's position. It likely would have even been the difference between making the Chase and missing out on a chance to race for the title.

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At the same time, the penalties are relatively meaningless.

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The fine is a big one and certainly hurts Grubb's wallet. In terms of competition, though, the whole thing could be relatively painless at least as far as major penalties go.??

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In years past, it might have been a crushing blow for a team trying to make NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup. But by virtue of his May win at Talladega Superspeedway, Hamlin is already in the Chase and even a whopper of a penalty like Tuesday's does little to change that.

Hamlin finished third in Sunday's Brickyard 400 as Joe Gibbs Racing placed three drivers in the top four behind race winner Jeff Gordon.

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