Did NASCAR make the right decision to fine William Byron 25 points and $50,000 per spin? Denny Hamlin under a warning two days after the incident?
The answer to this question will be given in the Hendrick Motorsports appeal.
But this raises a broader issue. Given that fans have more access to the video elements of the sport, what influence can or should they have in identifying potential penalties in the future?
Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competitions, admitted after last weekend’s race in Texas that series officials didn’t see Byron hit Hamlin.
MORE: Alex Bowman to miss race at Talladega
While video from the U.S. broadcast showed Byron spinning Hamlin, the spokesperson may have wondered if Hamlin checked Byron’s brake and initiated contact, rather than Byron colliding with him.
The matter was cleared up three minutes after green flag racing resumed when Byron’s in-car camera video was posted to NASCAR’s Twitter account showing him crashing into the back of Hamlin’s car.
After the race, Byron admitted he ran into Hamlin, although Byron said he did not want to spin Hamlin. Byron was upset by how Hamlin overtook him a few laps earlier, causing Byron to crash into the wall.
“I didn’t want to piss him off,” Byron said after the race. “This is definitely not what I was going to do. I wanted to hit him a little and show my displeasure, and, unfortunately, that’s what happened.”
The car camera video from Byron’s car was what fans could see as part of a program that began with the start of the playoffs. Fans can view in-car camera images from every car in the race through the NASCAR mobile app and on NASCAR Drive on NASCAR.com.
The TV broadcast did not have access to these views in the car. Miller noted that officials also had no access. This is likely to change.
In this case, it was the NASCAR social media account that kept people informed about what Byron had done. Looking ahead, what if a fan notices something that officials don’t notice and TV doesn’t show? What if this fan posts a video clip of an accident from a specific car camera? Should this result in a penalty either during the tournament or a few days later?
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 26, 2022
Golf has faced a similar problem over the last decade. before stating that as of January 1, 2018, the game’s main pro tours will no longer accept calls or emails from fans who think they’ve noticed a rule violation. Instead, the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA of America and others have said they will appoint at least one official to monitor all televised coverage of the tournament and resolve any rule issues.
“It’s a tough deal” Ryan Blaney said. “Especially with the rise of social media and all the accessibility that the Internet can give with all these live streams from every single machine, which I think is a good idea, but there can be some controversy in certain situations.”
Those who watched the Cup race last weekend posted a video of the violation. NASCAR not fined Ty Gibbs after slamming the door Ty Dillon on pit road during the race. Video footage of the incident quickly surfaced on social media shortly after the incident.
Series officials usually review races on Tuesday, and this gives them a chance to evaluate penalties for incidents they have gathered more information about.
NASCAR deducted 25 points from Gibbs and fined him $75,000 for Tuesday’s incident. It was his second pit road contact penalty this year. Gibbs was fined $15,000 for the hit-and-run Sam Mayercar on pit road after the Xfinity race in Martinsville.
Another key issue with refereeing in any sport: is it better to be right even if it happens a couple of days after the event, or if something is missed during the event, then so be it?
Section 4.4.C of the Cup Rulebook states that riders can be forfeited 25-50 points (driver and team owner points), fined $50,000-$100,000, and/or suspended indefinitely or terminated for a series of events including ” Intentional crash of another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle has been withdrawn from competition.”
So even if NASCAR penalized Byron during the competition, officials could have penalized him even more on Tuesday. This is not a situation where there is a penalty during the race or after. It could be both.
Ryan Blaney says he would prefer the decision made at the moment, and if not, let him go.
“I don’t want to wonder if something will happen in a few days,” he said. “I think you need to take a little more time and try to get things right at the moment because a lot of these things can change the course of the game.”
Byron’s penalty is an example. He left Texas third in the playoff standings, 17 points above the cutoff line. With a penalty, he is eight points below the cut line.
2. Race for milestone points
One of the questions before Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2:00 pm ET on NBC) is what playoff drivers should be doing. Should they ride in the back to increase their chances of reaching the finish line and scoring big? Or should they run ahead and score stage points, while at the same time being at greater risk of getting into an accident?
Kyle Larsonwho is 23 points above the cut line in third, said he didn’t see playoff drivers riding in the back.
“There are so many stage points at stake, and if you can get those stage points, then even if you crash, you’ll have a decent day of points,” he said. “I foresee everyone racing pretty hard.”
If any rider is riding in the back at the start of a stage, they will likely need to finish in the top 10 with 10 laps per stage to have a good chance of earning stage points.
In the spring Talladega race, 75% of the top 10 riders with 10 laps to go in any of the first two stages finished in the top 10 and scored points.
Larson scored 17 points at Talladega. Add that to his fourth place and he left with 50 points. Only three other riders scored over 40 points in that race: Martin Truex Jr. (45) Chase Elliott (44) and winner Ross Chastain (42).
All four of these riders also finished in the top 10 with 10 laps to go. On those last laps, Chastain ran no lower than fourth place before taking the lead on the final lap.
Chastain won this race after overcoming a pit road speeding ticket on the first stage. He did not score points in the first stage. He returned to the lap after a stage break warning and steadily moved up in the second stage, finishing in ninth place.
As for his plan for Sunday?
“We still talk through them,” Chastain said. “It’s not race day yet… we don’t need to have our plan yet. It would be bad if we already had our marching orders written down and knew what we were doing because it should be a smoother experience. Let’s see how the race starts.”
3. RCR turnover
In the 14 races since NBC/USA took over the broadcast of the Cup season, Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing have each won four races in the series.
That’s four wins in 13 races for RCR. It took the organization 192 races to win the last four races before this recent stretch.
“The new car has leveled the playing field,” said Andy Petrie, RCR Competition Director. “That was one of the things. What has happened over the years is that some of these mega-teams have been able to create an advantage in their equipment.”
It’s more than that. Reddick and Dillon’s four wins are double the organization’s in the previous four seasons. In total, they have made 13 top-3 finishes, including a 1-2 at Daytona in the regular season finale in August.
By comparison, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, the last two Cup champions, have won six times this season and finished in the top three 12 times.
Reddick and Dillon also finished in the top five 14 times. This is equal to the number of top fives the organization had in the previous four seasons combined. Reddick’s 439 lead laps are more than the organization’s total of 410 over the past four seasons.
“Obviously drivers are more important now because everything is so close,” Petri said. “Drivers can make a big difference. This year our pit teams have strengthened it. There are many reasons why we have been so successful.”
4. Working with numbers
A few things to think about:
RFK Racing led 309 laps in the last two races with Brad Keselowski as well as Chris Buescher. This is more than the organization has led in the previous 105 races combined. RFK Racing’s 417 lead laps this season is the organization’s record since 2013.
The driver leading under the white flag has finished fifth or worse in each of the last four Talladega races that have gone the full distance. Eric Jones led under the white flag in the spring race. He finished sixth.
The driver who won the Talladega Cup playoff race never won a championship that season.
Kyle Bush is the only driver to finish in the top ten in all three races at Daytona and Talladega this season. He finished sixth in the Daytona 500. He was third at Talladega in the spring. He was 10th at Daytona in August.
The stage winner has not won a competition in the last 11 races.
The 19 different winners this season are tied for the most points of all time since 1956, 1958, 1961 and 2001.
5. 600th race
Sunday will be Rodney Childers’ 600th Cup race as Cup Crew Leader. He becomes the 15th crew chief in series history to complete at least 600 starts.
They are Kevin Harvick together since 2014. Their 313 races together is the longest streak among active driver and crew chief combinations.
Harvick and Childers team up to…