FORT WORTH, Texas — A top NASCAR executive has admitted that series officials did not see William Byron to turn Denny Hamlin under caution down the stretch of Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.
The missed call could have major playoff implications, even if series officials decide to penalize Byron later this week, as was hinted at Sunday night.
The problem occurred after Martin Truex Jr. he blew out a tire while leading and crashed at turn 3 on lap 269 of the 334-lap race.
With his caution lights on, Hamlin slowed down. Byron punched him in retaliation for forcing him against the wall earlier. Hamlin spun on the infield grass. NASCAR did not return Hamlin to his original spot before the contact and did not penalize Byron.
“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution and dispatching our team,” Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said after the race. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we didn’t have that in mind. We watched Denny walk across the grass.
“By the time we got a replay showing the incident well enough to do something about it, we were back to green. I’m not sure that issue is fully resolved as of yet. We’ll see when we get back to work.”
Miller didn’t elaborate on what NASCAR might do this week.
Hamlin expressed his surprise on social media at Miller’s comments:
Miller explained how officials missed the Byron-Hamlin incident: “The cameras and monitors that we have, we’re mainly dedicated to officiating and seeing our security vehicles and how to dispatch them. At the time we install all those cameras (on the control tower monitor), we don’t have room to monitor all the cameras in the car.
“If we had immediate access to (Byron’s) car camera, that would have helped us a lot, being able to find it quickly. That’s definitely one of the things we’re looking at.”
Race winner Tyler Reddick He said NASCAR needs to address the situation to prevent another precautionary contact in the future.
“In William’s situation, whether he ran him over by accident or on purpose, there should be some kind of penalty for him on that side because he completely ruined someone’s career, whether on purpose or not,” Reddick said. “I feel like there should be something done there.
I’m sure (NASCAR) will make some kind of decision. I’m sure there will be something that they address this week, updates, from the NASCAR side. I’ll be curious to see what that is. We really can’t have this where you drop someone off on caution, they go to the back and you don’t. That could be an interesting situation in the future.”
Byron said he punched Hamlin to show his displeasure at being forced into the wall.
“I felt like he took me off the racetrack at (Turn) 2 and had very hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “I felt like the toe link was definitely bent, thankfully not completely broken. We were able to continue.
“A lot of times that kind of damage will ruin your career, especially this hard. I totally understand approaching someone and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”
Of the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to leave him out. That was definitely not what he intended to do. I intended to beat him up a bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately it happened the way it did. Obviously, when I was hanging around, I was like, ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”
Hamlin didn’t see it that way.
“I guess we can tear each other apart under caution,” Hamlin told NBC Sports’ Kim Coon. “I tried to destroy it. I don’t think we touch. I have to look. I don’t think we’ll touch. Obviously he sent us to the infield under yellow flag”.
When asked about having a conversation with Byron, Hamlin said, “I keep listening to these guys, but I’ll add him to the list of guys when I get a chance for them to get it.”
Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart were frustrated that NASCAR didn’t put Hamlin in second after contact. Instead, NASCAR placed him outside the top 15. After pitting, Hamlin restarted 19th. Byron, after blowing his whistle, restarted tenth.
“The man tears you apart under caution and receives no penalty?” Gabehart said on team radio. “What are they doing?”
Hamlin said after the race: “I can’t discuss the rules with them in the car and the team did everything they could to try to make a case, but in the end we went around the infield under caution.”
The result is that Byron finished seventh. That puts him third in the playoff standings. He is 17 points over the cut line heading into next weekend’s race at Talladega.
Hamlin finished 10th and is sixth in the playoff standings. He is eight points above the cut line.
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NASCAR says it didn’t see William Byron turn Denny Hamlin under caution originally appeared on NBCSports.com