Did NASCAR make the right decision to penalize William Byron with 25 points and $50,000 for spinning? Denny Hamlin subject to two days after the incident occurred?
It is a question that will be answered in the Hendrick Motorsports profession.
But this touches on a broader problem. Now that fans have more access to video elements of the sport, how much leverage could or should they have in exposing potential penalties in the future?
Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, admitted after last weekend’s race in Texas that series officials did not see Byron hit Hamlin.
MORE: Alex Bowman misses race in Talladega
While video from the US broadcast suggested Byron was circling Hamlin, an official might wonder if Hamlin was slowing down Byron and initiating contact, rather than Byron running into him.
That question was resolved three minutes after green flag racing resumed when NASCAR’s Twitter account posted a video of Byron’s in-car camera showing him hitting the back of Hamlin’s car.
After the race, Byron admitted to bumping into Hamlin, although Byron said he didn’t mean to spin Hamlin. Byron was upset about how Hamlin had raced against him a few laps earlier, causing Byron to hit the wall.
“I didn’t mean to spin him out,” Byron said after the race. “That was definitely not my intention. I was going to bump into him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately it happened the way it did.”
The in-car camera video from Byron’s car was an image fans may have as part of a program that kicked off with the start of the playoffs. Fans can view in-car CCTV footage from any car in the race via the NASCAR Mobile App and on NASCAR Drive at NASCAR.com.
The TV broadcast could not access those in-car displays. Miller noted that the officials also had no access. That will probably change.
In this case, it was NASCAR’s social media account that made people aware of what Byron was doing. Come on, what if it’s a fan who sees something that officials don’t see and TV doesn’t show? What if that fan puts a video clip of an incident from a certain camera in the car? Should that lead to a penalty during the event or days later?
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 26, 2022
Golf has faced a similar problem for the past decade before saying that effective January 1, 2018, the game’s major professional tours would no longer accept calls or emails from fans who believe they’ve noticed a rule violation. Instead, the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA of America, and others, stated that they would appoint at least one official to monitor all tournament broadcasts 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 provide with all these live feeds from every car, which I think is a good idea, but there can be some controversy in certain situations.”
Those watching last weekend’s cup race posted a video of a violation. NASCAR did not punish Ty Gibbs after the door slammed Ty Dillon on pit road during the race. Shortly after the incident, video clips of the incident quickly appeared on social media.
Series officials typically review races on Tuesdays, which is an opportunity for them to assess penalties for incidents they’ve gathered more information about.
NASCAR logged Gibbs 25 points and fined him $75,000 on Tuesday for the incident. It marked his second penalty this year for contact on the pit lane. Gibbs was fined $15,000 for hitting Sam Mayer‘s car on pit road after the Xfinity race in Martinsville.
Another important point in running a sport is whether it is better to be right even if it comes a few days after an event, or if something is missed during the event, so be it?
Section 4.4.C of the Cup Rule Book states that drivers can receive 25-50 points (driver and team owner points), be fined $50,000 – $100,000 and/or have a race suspended, indefinitely or terminated for a series of events, including “deliberately destroying another vehicle, whether or not doing so removes that vehicle from competition.”
So even if NASCAR had penalized Byron during the event, officials could have further penalized him on Tuesday. It is not a situation where there is either a penalty during the race or after. You can do both.
Ryan Blaney says he prefers a decision made right now and if not, let him go.
“I don’t want to wonder if something is going to happen days later,” he said. “I think you need to take a little more time and try to get things right at the right time because a lot of these things can be game-changing results.”
Byron’s penalty is an example. He left Texas in third place in the playoff standings, 17 points above the cutline. He is eight points below the cutline with the penalty.
2. Race for stage points
One of the questions in Sunday’s cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2pm ET on NBC) is what drivers should do in the playoffs. Do they have to ride in the back to increase their chances of reaching the finish line to score big points? Or should they run up front and go for podium points while also at greater risk of being picked up in a crash?
Kyle Larsonwho is 23 points above the cutline in third, said he doesn’t see any playoff drivers driving in the back.
“There are so many stage points on the line, and if you can grab those stage points, even if you have an accident, you’ll have a decent points day,” he said. “I foresee everyone will be racing pretty hard.”
Should a driver be in the back early in a stage, they will probably have to be in the top 10 with 10 laps into the stage to have a good chance of getting stage points.
In the Talladega spring race, 75% of the drivers finished in the top 10 with 10 laps to go in one of the first two stages in the top 10, scoring points.
Larson scored 17 stage points in Talladega. Add that to his fourth-place finish and he left there with 50 points. Only three other drivers scored more than 40 points that race: Martin Truex Jr. (45), Chase Elliot (44) and winner Ross Chastain (42).
All four of those drivers were also in the top 10 with 10 laps to go in the race. Chastain ran no lower than fourth in those final laps before taking the lead on the final lap.
Chastain won that race after overcoming a speed penalty on the pit lane in the first stage. He scored no points in the first leg. He took his lap back at the stage break warning and worked his way up steadily on the second stage, finishing ninth.
As for his plan for Sunday?
“We’re still talking about it,” 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 we knew what we were doing because it should be a more fluid experience. We’ll see how the race starts.”
3. RCR Cover
In the 14 races since NBC/USA took over the Cup season broadcast, Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing have each won a series-high four races.
That’s four wins in a 13-race stretch for RCR. It took the organization 192 races to win the last four races for this recent stretch.
“The new car leveled the playing field,” said Andy Petree, race director at RCR. “That was one of the things. What has happened over the years is that some of these mega teams have been able to build an advantage into their equipment.”
It’s more than that. Reddick and Dillon’s four wins double what the organization had in the past four seasons. Together they have achieved 13 top three finishes, including a 1-2 run at Daytona in the regular season finale in August.
By comparison, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott – the past two Cup champions – have combined for six wins and 12 top three finishes this season.
Reddick and Dillon also combined 14 top-five finishes. That is equal to the number of top five the organization had in the previous four seasons. Reddick’s 439 lap lead is more than the organization’s combined total (410) over the past four seasons.
“Obviously the drivers are more important now because everything is so close,” Petree said. “The drivers can make a big difference. Our pit crews have stepped it up this year. There are many reasons why we have been as successful as we have been.”
4. Cracking Numbers
A few things to think about:
RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races with Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher. That is more than the organization had managed in the previous 105 races. The 417 laps RFK Racing led this season are the most since 2013.
The driver with the white flag finished fifth or worse in each of the last four Talladega races that went the full distance. Erik Jones led at the white flag in the spring race. He finished sixth.
The driver who won the Talladega Cup play-off race never won the championship that season.
Kyle Busch is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all three races at Daytona and Talladega this season. He was sixth in the Daytona 500. He was third in Talladega in the spring. He placed 10th at Daytona in August.
A stage winner has not won the event in the last 11 races.
This season’s 19 different winners are most right in an all-time season with 1956, ’58, ’61 and 2001.
5. 600th race
Sunday is the 600th Cup race for Rodney Childers as cup leader. He will be the 15th crew chief in the history of the series with at least 600 starts.
he and me Kevin Harvick have been together since 2014. Their 313 races together is the longest run among active driver/crew chief combinations.
Harvick and Childers have won 37 races together, including two this season, and the 2014 championship.