NASCAR’s admission that it didn’t see William Byron spin Denny Hamlin with care during Sunday’s Cup playoff race is alarming.
With video evidence of the rule violation and Hamlin’s team’s spirited easing up, series officials had reason enough to be more careful about putting Hamlin back in second place before the race returned to green flag conditions. Or some other remedy even after the race is restarted.
Add to that the series officials’ lack of access to Byron’s vehicular camera… something that fans could easily see on NASCAR.com and on the NASCAR mobile app. — and changes need to be made ahead of this weekend’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.
While NASCAR should make every effort to resolve issues between drivers regardless of their playoff status, the fact that two playoff drivers were involved in the incident requires more attention. With three races per round, one wrong move could mean the difference between promotion or elimination.
Just as more is expected of riders and teams in the playoffs, the same is to be expected of officials.
“If we saw this (contact) well enough to respond to it in real time, which we should have done, like no excuses, we would probably have two options,” said Scott Miller, senior vice President of NASCAR Competitions. Sunday evening. “First, you had to get Hamlin back in place, and second, you had to get William to stand in the back.”
Here’s how the incident played out:
The warning was lifted on lap 269 Martin Truex Jr.crash at 8:19 pm ET.
As Hamlin slowed down, Byron moved in and hit him from behind.
Byron admitted after the race that the contact was deliberate, although he didn’t want to beat Hamlin. Byron was upset by how Hamlin overtook him on lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin push him into the wall as they exited turn two side by side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the warning.
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) September 26, 2022
Approximately 90 seconds after the warning lights came on, a US broadcast showed a replay of Byron from a low angle right behind Hamlin’s car and obvious contact.
Contact can take place in several ways. This can happen because the lead car slammed on the brakes and forced the car behind to hit them, or because the trailing car hit the car in front. The first video replay did not clarify what caused the contact, making it difficult for any official to make a decision based solely on it.
This is also the time when NASCAR officials have been monitoring safety vehicles on the track, checking lineups, and making sure pit road is ready for reopening. This is what NASCAR does effortlessly most of the time. Just not this time.
Another replay was shown in the US 11 minutes and 16 seconds after the warning, showing Byron and Hamlin’s car together. This replay aired about a minute before the green flag went up at 8:31 pm ET. Throughout the warning, Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Geibhart, argued that Hamlin should have restarted second.
But once the race resumed, it was all over for NASCAR. Or so it seemed.
Three minutes after waving the green flag, a video from the car was posted to NASCAR’s Twitter account showing Byron crashing into the back of Hamlin’s car when the warning was lifted. Such an action is usually a punishment – often parking the driver until the end of the race. Instead, Byron was allowed to continue and nothing was done for the remainder of the event.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 26, 2022
After the race, Miller told reporters that representatives of the series had not seen Byron’s contact.
“We use the cameras and monitors that we have mainly to referee and monitor our safety cars, as well as to send them,” Miller said. “By the time we have all these cameras installed (on the monitor in the control room), we won’t have a place to watch all the car cameras.
“If we had immediate access to[Byron’s]car camera, it would help us a lot as we were able to find it quickly. It’s definitely one of the things we pay attention to.”
But that did not happen.
“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do something about it, we were back to green,” Miller said.
We yelled at them on the radio what happened. I challenged my place. What are they doing there then?
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) September 26, 2022
NASCAR didn’t act. By then, it might have been too late to do so. But this is also a problem. Shouldn’t the violation be dealt with immediately, if it is clear what has happened, and not after a few days? Shouldn’t officials have been given access to car cameras so that they could see Byron’s actions earlier and be properly punished? Instead, Miller hinted at a possible penalty to Byron this week.
Miller did not reveal details, but it would not be surprising if Byron took the field, costing him points. He is 24 points off the cutline, so a penalty that drops him from seventh to 30th (a position ahead of Truex) could be logical and cost Byron 23 points, putting him near the cutline.
Texas winner Tyler Reddick said something had to be done. He knows. It was parked during the 2014 Pocono Truck Race for crashing the German Quiroga. in retaliation for an earlier incident.
“In William’s situation, whether he hit him by accident or on purpose, there should be some kind of punishment for him from that side because he completely ruined someone’s race, intentionally or not,” Reddick said. “I feel like something needs to be done there.
“I’m sure (NASCAR) will make some decision. I’m sure they’ll decide something this week, updates from NASCAR. I’ll be curious to see what it is. We can’t have that when you drop someone with caution, and they go to the rear, and you don’t. This could potentially be an interesting situation in the future.”
Texas became the fourth consecutive playoff race in which the winner did not advance to the next round.
All three races of the first round were won by riders who did not qualify for the playoffs. Tyler Reddick won Sunday in Texas, a week after he failed to make it through the round of 16 and was out of contention for the title.
Texas really shook up the playoff standings. Chase Elliott was among the points leaders, but a blown tire caused his car to crash into a wall and his race ended. He falls to 8th, the last transfer place for the two remaining races in this round. He is associated with Daniel Suarezbut Suarez has the best tie-break score of the round.
Chase Briscoe, who only finished second in the top 10 in the last 22 races, became the first driver not to receive a transfer point. He is four points behind Elliott and Suarez. Austin Sindrik is 11 points from the transfer point. Christopher Bell is 29 points from the transfer position. Alex Bowman is 30 points from the transfer line.
The race series takes place on Sunday in Talladega (2:00 pm ET on NBC).
Noah Gragson’s win in Texas took him to the next round. This victory was his fourth in a row.
Ryan Sieg as well as Sam Mayer share the last two transfer places to the next round. Riley Autumn behind them by one point. Daniel Hemrick is eight points from the final transfer point. Brandon Jones is 13 points from the last transfer spot. Jeremy Clements 29 points less than the final transfer position.
The series races take place on Saturday in Talladega (4:00 pm ET on the US network).
CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES
The series closed last weekend but returns to the track on Saturday in Talladega. You Maeski entered the championship race in Phoenix, winning in Bristol.