Denny Hamlin's Coca-Cola 600 hopes dashed early after piece flies off; crew chief faces 4-race ban

Denny Hamlin's crew chief faces 4-race ban (0:53)

Marty Smith breaks down the suspension Denny Hamlin's crew chief is facing after a piece of tungsten flew off of Hamlin's car during pace laps at the Coca-Cola 600. (0:53)

CONCORD, N.C. -- Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin had his shot at winning another crown jewel event Sunday night destroyed before the Coca-Cola 600 even began.

A piece of tungsten flew off of Hamlin's car during the pace laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Hamlin had to return to pit road to have the weight put back into his Toyota.

The penalty for tungsten coming off a car is a four-race suspension for the crew chief, according to NASCAR's rule book.

Hamlin was eight laps down when he was finally able to join the race and ended up 30th as Brad Keselowski took the checkered flag.

Hamlin, the winner Wednesday night at Darlington Raceway, was clearly growing frustrated as his Joe Gibbs Racing team worked to reapply tungsten.

"Let me know when it's the point of no return and we can just go home," Hamlin said.

"Nope," replied crew chief Chris Gabehart. "We can't do that."

The tungsten in question weighs 35 pounds and costs $1,877 from the supplier. If it comes off a car during competition, it can cause serious damage if another vehicle hits it. The ballast is added to meet NASCAR's minimum-weight requirement, and if it becomes separated from the car, it is an automatic four-race suspension for the crew chief.

The Sunday before Memorial Day is supposed to be a smorgasbord of motorsports that begins with Formula One at the Monaco Grand Prix, then IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, followed by NASCAR and its longest race on the calendar.

The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out the first part of F1's schedule, and, like IndyCar, it is still waiting to start its season. Roger Penske, the new owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has moved the Indy 500. It marks the first time since 1946 the 500 is not being run on Memorial Day weekend.

NASCAR was able to go forward for its third Cup event in seven days under a health plan approved by state officials that allowed the sport to resume after a 10-week hiatus. NASCAR ran three events in South Carolina, and the Coca-Cola 600 kicks off four consecutive days of racing at Charlotte.

NASCAR did not report any issues with health screenings, and all drivers were able to qualify ahead of the 600.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.