Denny Hamlin qualified 19th for Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway but he started at the back of the field because of a cut tire discovered after qualifying.
So why was Hamlin penalized for something out of his control?
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, explained it Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“It’s a really tough break, and it’s one of those things where there’s really not a great solution,’’ O’Donnell said. “If something happens to a tire while you’ve started qualifying … you cut a tire, you are forced to start in the back. The reason for that is we worked with the race teams and they said ‘Don’t tempt us,’ and by that I mean, ‘I won the pole, and I’m going to go out there and flat spot a tire and now I’m on the pole and now you need to give me new tires.’ It’s a balance for us to be able to police it. It’s unfortunate. It doesn’t happen often. Denny had to go to the back. It happened to two cars in the Xfinity Series as well.’’
Section 18.104.22.168.e of the NASCAR Cup Rule Book states that “unless otherwise stated or authorized by the Series Managing Director, the tires used during Qualifying must be used to start the Race.”
Section 22.214.171.124.h of the NASCAR Cup Rule Book includes a chart that notes should a damaged tire be replaced after qualifying, teams can replace it with a scuff but must start at the rear of the field unless Goodyear confirms a manufacturing abnormality with that tire.