FORT WORTH, Texas – After a questionable caution put a serious crimp in his championship chances, Kyle Larson called on NASCAR officials to step in after a spate of possibly intentional yellows.
“It’s B.S.,” Larson said after a 12th Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. “I’ve done it. We’ve all done it in those positions, but until NASCAR steps in, and whether it’s a fine or a penalty with points or something, people are still going to do it.
“It just sucks.”
After pitting from fourth under green for a four-tire pit stop on Lap 238, Larson was trapped a lap down when a spin five laps later by Bubba Wallace brought out a yellow.
Wallace’s No. 43 had a left-rear tire going down, but he appeared to have saved it after an initial slide. He then looped the car in a half-spin on the apron in a manner reminiscent of Joey Logano’s spin last week at Martinsville Speedway, which also raised eyebrows for potentially being intentional. According to ground rules provided to Cup crew chiefs, NASCAR officials can penalize at their discretion if they determine a driver intentionally caused a caution.
Unlike Logano’s spin, which NASCAR said wasn’t reviewed by the scoring tower, a NASCAR spokesman said Wallace’s spin was reviewed, and officials determined it didn’t warrant a penalty.
Larson believes that was the wrong call.
“That was very obvious (Wallace) was spinning on purpose,” Larson said. “He turned right and left to spin out. So when it’s blatant and that obvious, I think it’s pretty easy for them to notice it and make a call on it.
“I think Helen Keller could have seen that.”
Larson’s crew chief, Chad Johnston, also said Wallace’s spin was intentional on the No. 42 team radio and said “at some point, maybe (NASCAR will) start doing something about guys bringing out the caution on purpose.”
Larson conceded he has been guilty of intentionally causing yellows, noting he did it by intentionally stopping on track during the 2016 truck race at Eldora Speedway (he was penalized a lap but still rebounded for the victory).
“We’re all guilty of doing it,” he said. “But until NASCAR does something else about it, or does anything or something, we’re going to continue to do it.”
The caution also hurt the cars of Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and William Byron – all of whom had pitted just ahead of the yellow and had to take a wavearound to get back on the lead lap.
Wallace was able to pit without losing as much time under green but still finished three laps down in 24th.
“I wasn’t the only one it affected,” Larson said. “It affected a few other guys that had a good shot to win. So yeah, it benefited (Wallace) and really killed our day.”
After restarting in 19th, Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet wasn’t the same mired in traffic over the final 86 laps of the 500-mile race when he felt he was headed for at least a top-three finish Sunday.
“The nose of the car felt like it was vibrating, and I lost a lot of speed, too, even with me running as much throttle as I was before we pitted,” he said. “I got really loose after we pitted. So something happened, I’m not really sure what. Hopefully, they can figure it out.
“I felt I was the best car to that point. Maybe we had issues with the car at the end, but I felt I was the best car to that point. I was able to pass people pretty easily. We were doing good, looking really good and had great stage points and were going to get a good finish, and it was going to be a totally different race until (the yellow for Wallace).”
With Kevin Harvick locking into the championship round with a victory, Larson heads to ISM Raceway near Phoenix in a virtual must-win situation.
He is 23 points behind fourth-ranked Joey Logano, who currently is in the final transfer spot to the Nov. 17 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Unless (third-ranked Kyle Busch) or Logano has major issues, we for sure have to go there and win,” Larson said. “Phoenix, we’ve run decent there. Had a shot to win once before. See if we can get it done next week.”