A senior NASCAR official conceded Monday that officials “might have missed” having Chase Elliott pit to fix his radio issues during Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway.
Elliott had intermittent contact with his team during the race because of suspected problems with his earplugs. Elliott and his team could communicate well during cautions but not as consistently during green flag runs.
At one point in the race, Elliott asked the team, including his spotter, not to talk because of the radio issues. The crew gave him different earbuds during a pit stop on Lap 83 of the 267-lap race, but he was unable to replace his other earbuds.
Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, discussed the matter Monday with NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan and Fox Sports’ Alan Cavanna on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“We were made aware of that, and we have a lot going on in the tower and we can’t monitor every single radio transmission from all the teams, but we do keep tabs on that,” Miller said. “We did get word that there was some potential problem. … When we listened to some of the dialogue back and forth on the scanner, it seemed as though Chase was communicating with his crew chief about the car and there was some dialogue back. We felt like they were in communication with one another.
“Obviously by his interview at the end of the race, we were wrong about that. That’s one of the things about officiating these races, we make decisions and we live with them and we have to move on to the next race. Maybe we missed that one, and maybe we should have had him in there because they’re supposed to have all that communication.
“There was the dialogue, back and forth between he and the crew chief that led us to believe they were OK. Turns out from his interview afterwards they weren’t. One we might have missed. That was the decision we made and on to Texas.”
Section 126.96.36.199.h of the Cup Rule Book states that “during competition, in-vehicle radio communication capability is required between the driver, crew chief, and spotter of the same vehicle number.”
Miller was asked on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that if NASCAR had been more aware of Elliott’s radio problems would Elliott have been ordered to pit road to fix the issue.
“Most of the times when we have brought people in, it, ironically, has been because they’ve had either a speeding on pit road, some kind of pit road infraction or some other infraction and we communicate to the spotter to bring the driver down pit road and there is no response,” Miller said. “That’s when we typically become aware of a radio problem. In those cases, when the driver doesn’t respond to what the spotter is asking him to do, we always make them come down and fix it.”
Had NASCAR ordered Elliott to pit road to fix the radio issues, it would have dropped him back in the running order. If he had been forced to pit under green, he would have fallen off the lead lap. If he had been forced to pit under caution, he likely would have restarted at the rear of the field. Either of those situations could have impacted how many stage points he scored (Elliott won the first stage and finished the race with 16 of a possible 20 stage points).
With the issue early in the race, Elliott likely would have had time to recover.
He went on to finish sixth and heads to Texas eight points out of the final transfer spot for the championship race.
After the race, Elliott told NBC Sports about his radio issues: “The good news was they could hear me, I just couldn’t hear them once we went green. Once we kind of had the situation understood, that they could hear me and I just couldn’t hear them, that helped, obviously. And then from there, I just kind of knew what to expect. I was just trying to pay attention to lap count and when everybody else was going to start pitting or not. But I don’t think it ultimately hindered our performance at all.”
Later in a Zoom with reporters, Elliott said: “I didn’t think it was unsafe (with the radio problems). Honestly, I never even though about that. Short track dirt racers around the country race (without) spotters every weekend. We have both. I don’t know why we can’t handle it if your radios go bad.”