NASCAR explains why its miscommunication led to Xfinity drivers being penalized

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It’s not what you hear, but what you see that matters when it comes to NASCAR’s rules.

That message was clear in Sunday’s Xfinity race at Chicagoland Speedway when 19 teams were penalized for pitting too soon although NASCAR’s tower stated on the radio – which teams monitor – that pit road was open.

The problem was that the official at the entrance at pit road had a red flag up and the red lights on, indicating pit road was closed. A green flag and green lights indicates pit road is open.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, explained Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio what happened and why the drivers were penalized.

“The tower did come over the radio and say pit road was open, but if you go back to the driver’s meeting, what we say in every driver’s meeting is the light and the flag are what dictates whether it’s open or not,’’ he said.

“The (official) at the opening didn’t hear the radio communication so the red flag and light were still on and, in that case, if anyone comes down pit road and it’s technically closed via the light or the flag, they’ll receive a penalty for pitting too soon.’’

Eventual winner Erik Jones, who was leading at the time, was among those penalized for pitting too soon on Lap 151 of the 200-lap race.

“Our spotter said pit road was open,’’ he said. “I didn’t look at the light honestly. I don’t look at the light. I just came down pit road. Everybody followed behind us. (The spotter) keyed up on when we came back out and said pit road was closed when we came down but they said it was open. It was just kind of a mess. It was just an oddity, probably something you’ll never see again.’’

Others penalized included Austin Dillon, who finished third, Ross Kenseth, who placed sixth and Daniel Suarez, who finished seventh.