The Stewart-Haas Racing rookie had been penalized by NASCAR earlier in the lap for cutting Turn 2 through the grass (and rejoining the track in second) on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But even though the penalty had been relayed to the team and reported on the broadcast as their battle reached Turn 7, Briscoe said he was unaware that he had been slapped with a stop-and-go when he slammed into Hamlin while trying to out-brake the No. 11 entering Turn 10.
“If I would have known I had a penalty, I would have never tried to pass him there,” Briscoe said. “At that moment in time, I was going for the win. That’s what I’m paid to do. I get why he’s mad.”
As A.J. Allmendinger, who slipped by both cars for his second career victory, celebrated with a frontstretch burnout behind them, an angry Hamlin confronted Briscoe during an interview on pit lane. After a civil 90-second discussion, they parted amicably.
Briscoe then was consoled by team owner Tony Stewart (who told Briscoe he was glad he “stood up for yourself (going for a win), that’ll go a long way”) as two Indiana State Police officers stood watch nearby.
“At first I don’t know if I was getting anywhere,” Briscoe said of his conversation with Hamlin. “Once I explained to (Hamlin) I didn’t even know that I had a penalty until I got to turn 10 – if I had a penalty, there was no need to even try to pass him for the win. So if I’d known that earlier, I would have did my stop and go and went on, but as far as I understood it, at that moment in time, I was still trying to win the race, so I was going for it.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 15, 2021
“I just got into him accidentally. I think at the end, he started understanding where I’m coming from, and obviously he’s been there when trying to get your first win, and in our playoff situation, you have to do what you’ve got to do. … I’d be upset, too. Denny’s trying to go for the win, he asked why I didn’t brake. Well, that was my best opportunity to win the race if I could get under him there. I knew A.J. was going to be quick either way. I had older tires and had to try to get going when I could. Sorry it ruined his day. That was never my intention.”
“I wanted to beat him fair and square. I don’t ever want to wreck anyone for the win. I’ve never wrecked anybody on purpose in my life so I knew that a lot of guys were leaving that bottom lane open, and I almost got passed by (Austin) Cindric there last year, so I knew that was a spot where a lot of guys were just lazy and forgetting about it. I went to turn underneath him, and when I did, I just nicked him in the right-rear corner, and it turned him the other way.”
Hamlin, who lost the Cup Series points lead as well as a shot at his first victory this season, called it “bad judgment” on Briscoe’s part but didn’t think the wreck was malicious.
Starting on the outside in second on the final restart, Briscoe said he missed the entry to Turn 2 because Hamlin had out-braked him into Turn 1.
“At the restart, everyone is trying to out-brake each other getting into 1, we all missed it to a certain extent,” Briscoe said. “I was getting ran wide and had nowhere else to go, so I knew I was going to go through the grass. It was just a matter of ‘Do you go through here slow or gas it wide open?’ and hope it gets through it.
— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) August 15, 2021
“I don’t know if there would have been a penalty if I went through there slow. To me, that was my only chance to win the race at that point, so just went for that and stayed on him tight and knew (Allmendinger) was right behind me and obviously, he’s been fast and on newer tires.”
Briscoe was parked by NASCAR and listed with a 26th-place finish for spinning Hamlin after failing to comply with the penalty.
Vice president of competition Scott Miller said NASCAR would be investigating whether the penalty was relayed properly to Briscoe by his spotter.
“It was announced over the race channel he had a penalty and needed to serve it prior to him having the incident with (Hamlin),” Miller said. “What we’ll have to do is go back and listen to the communication from the spotter. There wasn’t much time elapsed from the time we called the penalty and him getting into it with (Hamlin). So we’ll do some investigation and make sure the spotter conveyed the message well to the driver before that happened. That was unfortunate how that all worked out there.”