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Through the Field: Persisting Through Penalties

by Elliot Hicks

The current big story in the NASCAR Cup Series garage is penalties. 

Following the race at Pocono on Sunday, both the first and second-place finishing cars, driven by Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, respectively, were disqualified following post-race inspection. Hamlin became the first Cup winner to be disqualified in a race since 1960 – the first victim at the sport’s highest level to be disqualified under harsher penalties for infractions, which began in 2019. 

Winners have been disqualified in the Xfinity and Truck Series since then, including Hamlin in a Darlington race in 2020. And with how often race teams will continue to push the envelope with the rule book, as always, he certainly won’t be the last to be disqualified. 

That attitude is all the more relevant given that Michael McDowell’s No. 34 team was issued a penalty on Tuesday similar to that given to Brad Keselowski a few months ago: a fine, loss of driver points, and a situation that becomes a near impossibility to qualify for the playoffs. It’s a shame because McDowell has had perhaps his best season ever and now will need a win and a miracle to have it continue in the playoffs. But it can be done. 

These infringements bring up a solid lesson. You can probably skirt the rules a bit from time to time, and sometimes you can gain significant advantages. However, if you do, don’t get caught, or you could be in a world of pain. 

I think the penalty to McDowell makes him more of a driver to watch at the upcoming Indianapolis Road Course as now the team has to take even bigger swings at getting a win, and he’s been good on road courses. Here are a few others I’m looking at placing bets on or putting into fantasy lineups:

Indy Road Course Best Bets

Kyle Busch (+1600):  At this point, we understand that “Rowdy” is a threat to win everywhere. But I imagine more of that rowdy attitude will continue to come out every week that we still wait on news of where he will be driving in 2023 and beyond. 

I believe that with a decent racecar and an irritated Busch behind the wheel, it doesn’t get much better than that. 

Daniel Suarez (+1200):  Trackhouse Racing is still arguably the hottest team in NASCAR. Daniel Suarez will still be riding high from his win at Sonoma and feeling confident about his road course ability. Although he is at a slight risk of being low enough in the driver points to be knocked out of the playoffs in the event of a 17th winner, there are still multiple drivers behind him, so he won’t necessarily have to race with that target on his back. 

Chris Buescher (+3000):  Chris Buescher running well on road courses has been relatively unexpected, but his No. 17 has been solid all season. A second-place at Sonoma and sixth-place at Road America puts Buescher in the conversation for a checkered flag come Sunday.

Thanks for reading. For more fantasy NASCAR and life advice, follow me on Twitter, @EHicks39, or check out more of my work at Elliot-Hicks.com.

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