NASCAR executive: ‘Can’t judge intent’ on uncontrolled tire penalties

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An uncontrolled tire penalty has raised the issue of intent regarding pit road penalties between Denny Hamlin and a senior NASCAR executive.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said uncontrolled tire penalties can’t be judged on intent and are present for safety reasons. Hamlin fired back on social media, criticizing NASCAR for a rule introduced last year that reduced the number of pit crew members on teams and resulted in “40 guys” teams “laid off.”

The issue began Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway when Hamlin was called for an uncontrolled tire penalty early in Stage 2 on Lap 105. The penalty resulted in Hamlin having to restart at the rear of the field.

On Twitter, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver called the penalty a “nickel and dime judgement call” and that “this intent is not why the rules was put in place.” Hamlin added that he wanted to see the sport “go back to using common sense.”

O’Donnell responded to Hamlin’s comments Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

“Well, you can’t judge intent,” O’Donnell said. “If a part breaks or anything in the car, if we had to judge intent really on almost any penalty, we’d be in trouble. That’s why we have a rule book and it’s black and white and we’ve been through those things. It’s in place for safety reasons. We’ve been consistent on those calls all year. I think we’re looking at some things around the new car that we can do down the road. We certainly don’t want to be in the rules business or too many rules. But on that case it’s one where we’ve got to make that call.”

Hamlin responded on Twitter, referencing the 2018 reduction of over-the-wall pit crew members from six to five.

While Hamlin said the uncontrolled tire penalty “ruined” his day, it was the first of two penalties the No. 11 team received Sunday. It was followed on Lap 163 with a penalty for too many crew members over the wall.

After winning Stage 1 of the race, Hamlin went on to end the night in 15th.