FORT WORTH, Texas – A senior NASCAR executive admitted that series officials did not see William Byron Denny Hamlin’s spin under caution during Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.
The missed call could have major implications in the playoffs – even if league officials decide to punish Byron later this week, as was reported Sunday night.
The issue occurred after Martin Truex Jr. blew a tire while leading and crashed in Turn 3 on Lap 269 of the 334-lap race.
With the warning lights illuminated, Hamlin slowed. Byron punched him in revenge for pushing him into the wall earlier. Hamlin turned across the wonderful grass. NASCAR did not put Hamlin back in his starting spot before the contact and did not penalize Byron.
“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the real cause of the warning up there and sending our equipment,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition after the race. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no idea. We saw Denny going through the grass.
“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything with, we were back in the green. I’m not sure if that issue is fully resolved yet. We’ll be looking at that when we get back to work.”
Miller did not elaborate on what NASCAR might do this week.
Hamlin took to social media to express his dismay at Miller’s comments:
Miller explained how officers missed the Byron-Hamlin incident: “The cameras and monitors that we have, we dedicate them mostly to directing and seeing our safety vehicles and how to drive them. By the time we put all those cameras up (on the monitor in the control tower), we don’t have room to monitor the cameras inside the car.
“If we had immediate access to a camera in (Byron’s) car, that would help us a lot, being able to find that quickly. That’s definitely one of the things we’re looking at.”
Race winner Tyler Reddick said NASCAR needs to address the situation to avoid another cautionary contact in the future.
“In William’s case, whether he ran it over by accident or on purpose, there should be some kind of penalty for him on that side because he has completely stopped someone’s race, whether it was on purpose or not,” Reddick said. “I feel something should be done there.
I’m sure (NASCAR will make) some kind of decision. I’m sure there will be something they will tackle this week, updates, on the NASCAR side. I will be curious to see what that is. We can’t really have this when you dump someone under caution, they go to the back and you don’t. That could be an interesting case in the future.”
Byron said he hit Hamlin to show his displeasure at being forced into the wall.
“I felt like he ran me off the track from (Turn) 2 and had a really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “I felt like the toe joint was definitely bent, luckily it wasn’t completely broken. We were able to continue.
“A lot of times that kind of damage will ruin a race, especially one that hard. I totally understand running close and making a little bit of contact, but that was huge.”
Regarding the revenge attack, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to turn it around. I certainly didn’t intend to do that. I meant to hit him a little and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened as it happened. Of course, when it was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”
Hamlin didn’t see it that way.
“I think we can destroy each other under caution,” Hamlin told NBC Sports’ Kim Coon. “I tried to destroy it back. I don’t think we did. I have to look. I don’t think we did. He obviously sent us through the park under caution.”
When asked about having a conversation with Byron, Hamlin said: “I hear these guys a lot, but I’ll add him to the list of guys when I get a chance to get him.”
Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart were frustrated with NASCAR for not placing Hamlin second after the contact. Instead, NASCAR placed him outside the top 15. After pitting, Hamlin restarted 19th. Byron, after pitching, restarted 10th.
“The man gives you a warning and gets no punishment?” Gabehart said on the team radio. “What are they doing?”
Hamlin said after the race: “I can’t argue with the rules inside the car and the team did everything they could to make a case but in the end we spun through the field under caution.”
The result is that Byron finished in seventh place. That puts him third in the standings. He is 17 points above the cut heading into next weekend’s race at Talladega.
Hamlin finished 10th and is sixth in the playoff standings. It is eight points above the short line.
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