Denny Hamlin’s crew chief, Mike Wheeler, was suspended for two races after Hamlin’s car failed the post-race inspection following Hamlin’s encumbered win at Darlington.
Chris Gabehart will fill in for Wheeler during the next two races, including the playoff opener at Chicagoland, and he told NBC Sports his job will be simple.
“I can assure you,” Gabehart said, “I’ve had a little bit of conversation over the last day or two, he’s coming here motivated. You’re going to get the full force of Denny Hamlin over the next two days, and it’s going to be fun.”
Hamlin won both the Xfinity and Cup Series races at Darlington, but both winning cars failed inspection after the race.
Gabehart primarily serves as Christopher Bell’s crew chief in the Xfinity Series, and most of his attention will be directed towards Bell. He said that Hamlin won’t need him as much during practice and qualifying on Friday at Richmond.
“I’m going to go check on them, but it’s more or less me being plugged in where I can be to get up to speed with what they’ve got going on,”’ Gabehart said. “I won’t be involved in any right rear spring changes or shock changes or any of that stuff. (Wheeler) will still be plugged in from afar.
“There is so much support over there that they don’t need me for any of that. They’re just asking me to sit on the (pit) box with a little bit of experience pushing the (radio) button and making those gut feel calls (in the race).”
Hamlin has already qualified for the playoffs, so his encumbered win isn’t too much of a concern. He is fifth in the points this year, and he is certainly a contender for the Cup championship this fall.
(h/t NBC Sports)