WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Chase Elliott‘s bid for a three-peat at Watkins Glen took a hit hours before Sunday’s Cup race when NASCAR penalized the No. 9 Chevrolet of Hendrick Motorsports for violating series rules and ejected crew chief Alan Gustafson.
The No. 20 Toyota driven by Christopher Bell for Joe Gibbs Racing also received the same L1 penalties regarding rear-window air deflectors, and crew chief Adam Stevens was ejected.
Both teams lost 10 driver and owner points, were fined $25,000 and will start at the back of the field.
“I don’t really think it changes too much,” Bell said. “I don’t really hear from Adam much on the radio during races. I think we’re in a pretty good spot. I don’t think it’s going to affect me inside the car. I don’t know how much it’s going to affect the team.”
Joe Gibbs Racing also had changes to the pit crews of Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch because of COVID-19 protocols. Bryan Backus will be the front tire changer on Truex’s No. 19 team Sunday. He replaces Hunter Masling, who the team said was out because of close contact. Joshua Pech will be the fueler for Busch’s No. 18 team. He replaces Matthew Tyrrell, who also had close contact.
“We hope it doesn’t impact things,” Truex said. “Tough circumstances the way it all worked out. He didn’t even test positive. He just was around somebody who did.”
Elliott, whose car failed inspection twice, has won the past two races at The Glen and was to start 11th on the grid before the penalties.
“It’s certainly not ideal,” Elliott said. “I feel like we can operate at a high level. We’ve been prepared for the race. I hate that Alan is not on the box, but I feel like we can do a really good job working with the rest of our team and do well.”
Elliott said lead engineer Tom Gray would replace Gustafson. Bell said car chief Chris Sherwood would guide the No. 20.