A lot of people had reasons to be mad after Sunday’s nearly four-and-half-hour NASCAR Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway, which saw 16 cautions. Most of those were caused by wrecks that resulted from tire failures.
However, Denny Hamlin’s reason to be hot under the collar had nothing to do with that. Well, not directly.
While the Joe Gibbs Racing driver didn’t have a tire-related accident, he had his own issue that came during a caution for one. And he’s upset NASCAR didn’t seem to notice until it was too late.
The incident in question took place right after a caution came out on lLap 267 for a Martin Truex Jr. wreck in turn three caused by a rear-tire failure.
In the moments after the yellow flag was put out and drivers were slowing their cars, William Byron came up on Hamlin and made contact with the back of his No. 11 car, sending it into a spin through the infield grass. The move was Byron’s attempt at showing “displeasure” for his perception of how Hamlin raced him on the last restart, when they made contact exiting turn two.
However, Byron claimed after the race that he hadn’t intended to spin Hamlin out intentionally.
“Obviously, yeah, I went to go show my displeasure,” Byron said. “I didn’t mean to hit him and spin him out. There’s a ton of guys that do this and go do something like that. I see it all the time.
“Yeah, I’m just not going to get run like that. Yeah, there’s really no reason. We’re running second and third I think. Had a shot to win. Killed our car, for sure. That was a bummer.”
At the time, Hamlin didn’t think he made any contact with the Hendrick Motorsports driver.
“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution. I tried to wreck him back,” Hamlin said. “I’m fine with hard racing. But wrecking me under caution is obviously not what we were bargaining for.”
After the race, NASCAR competition official Scott Miller said NASCAR officials saw Hamlin spin through the grass. However, they didn’t realize the full extent of the incident until the race went back to green.
“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there (Truex) and dispatching our equipment,” Miller told media members at the NASCAR hauler. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass. By the time we got to a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.
“I’m not sure that issue is completely resolved as of yet. We’ll be looking at that when we get back to work.”
Miller said there was “no excuse there” for not having seen what happened.
“If we had seen that good enough to react to it real-time, which we should have, … there would probably have been two courses of action: one would have been to put Hamlin back where he was, and the other would be to have made William start in the back.”
Hamlin wasn’t pleased with the reveal that NASCAR had completely missed Byron spinning him.
They missed it? What a f*#k joke. It played on the screen 5 times during caution.— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) September 26, 2022
We were on the radio yelling at them what happened. I challenged my spot. What are they doing up there then?— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) September 26, 2022
So, what were NASCAR officials doing in race control that diverted attention from an accident that happened on the frontstretch?
Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s VP of officiating and technical inspection, appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Monday morning to detail what all happens in the event of a caution.
“So let’s take last night, for example, (Truex) heads off in the turn three, makes contact with the outside wall, has a right rear (tire) go down. So that’s the cause of it,” Sawyer said. “Our immediate focus is, a) We get the caution put out. b) We get the field captured. And along that same process, we’re dispatching safety equipment. Our No. 1 focus at that time is to focus on that incident, that car, that driver to make sure that there’s no serious injury there.
“So once that happens, we’ve also got folks in the background, looking at the lineup, making sure it’s (frozen), which is at the time the caution comes out. Our timing and scoring folks are working to make sure the lineup is correct. When all this is unfolding, we have a car that’s made contact, we have a car that’s on the damaged vehicle policy, so there someone that’s managing that part of it, we’re starting to get prepared for pitstops. Again, we’re dispatching safety equipment, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. So granted, (Hamlin) spinning down the front straightaway was somewhat of a surprise to all of us because we’re under caution.
“So we’re kind of looking at, ‘OK, what happened here?’ We’re still focused on (Truex). To make sure again, that we don’t have any issues there. Window net comes down, Martin gets out. OK, so then we start going back and (looking at) replay, trying to figure out what happened with (Byron) and (Hamlin). Again, we’re opening pit road, we’re going to pit stops, there’s a sequence of events that happens here. By the time we’re able to even get remotely close to what happened with (Hamlin and Byron) we’re back to green.”
Starting Monday, what will NASCAR do to ensure it doesn’t miss anything similar in the future?
Sawyer said NASCAR will explore “What additional technology will we need? What other camera views do we need that we didn’t have? Is that from an in-car camera, if we have the in-car camera of the 24, in-car camera 11, we may be able to at that point make a decision.”
This is curious, because as of just a few weeks ago, every single NASCAR Cup car has an in-car camera built into it.
NASCAR’s Twitter account posted video of Byron spinning Hamlin some time after the incident.
So these are the cameras in every car… crazy we cant get those up in the tower. https://t.co/Q6gp0OhjVM— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) September 26, 2022
“At that point in time, if we have that information where we can make a decision, then whether there’s a penalty at that point, giving the 11 its spot back, putting the 24 to the back, holding the 24, all of those things would be on the table,” Sawyer said. “But I think first and foremost the direction that we will take is what additional tools and resources do we need to be able to focus on not only the number one priority there at that time, which was the safety of the 19, but also what other incidents or incidents that may be happening around the racetrack at that time as well.”