NASCAR on NBC analyst and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett believes Joey Logano intentionally spun his car late in the Martinsville race after contact with the car of Denny Hamlin.
The reason in Jarrett’s mind? Logano’s spin brought out a caution that helped keep the Team Penske driver on the lead lap instead of losing two laps if he had limped into the pits under green to change tires.
“There’s no doubt in my mind he spun his car intentionally and finally in a place when he realized he had a problem, and he was going to need a caution because they were going to go a couple laps down if they had to pit under green and make this change,” Jarrett said on this week’s postrace playoff edition of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast with Nate Ryan.
After contact with Hamlin that squeezed him into the wall and left his left-rear tire flat, Logano nearly lost control of his No. 22 Ford in Turn 4.
After traveling down the frontstretch on Lap 458, the car looped in the outside lane of Turn 1 without hitting the wall or another car. That brought out a caution that allowed Logano to pit for four tires.
Logano essentially forced NASCAR to decide if his action was intentional, Jarrett said. As it turned out, NASCAR did not penalize Logano. Officials told NBC Sports that the incident wasn’t reviewed by the scoring tower.
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. There also have been postrace penalties in the past after NASCAR determined that drivers spun intentionally to cause a yellow.
“Why not put the ball in NASCAR’s court to try to decide?” Jarrett said. “It’s a ball and strike call. I’ll take it even further than that: Did the pitcher intentionally hit a batter? There’s only one person that really knows for sure if that’s the case. And in this case, there’s only one person that knows 100 percent.
“I think I know as a driver and competitor in that situation that I’d rather take my chances on NASCAR having to make that call and said I created a caution intentionally. I think that’s a one-lap penalty if you do that. That’s less than what they were going to lose if they went in under green and change tires.
“Why not put (NASCAR) in that position? They might not make that call. It might look like (Logano) was carrying too much speed and just spun.
“But there’s no doubt in my mind that he did the thing that most of us – most of as drivers – would have done in that situation. I don’t fault him at all. It’s no different than a crew chief pushing the limits of what he can get through inspection. A driver is doing the same thing. And in this case, I think he’s going to come out with a better end, whichever way the call went there.”
Logano salvaged an eighth-place finish at Martinsville that kept him in the final transfer spot for the playoffs, 14 points above the cutline. If he had pitted under green with 40 laps remaining, he likely would have finished outside the top 20.
“Now those guys that are below the cutline kind of wish that would have played out that way so that everybody’d be a lot closer to that cut line,” Jarrett said.
Noting how hard Logano raced at Dover while 24 laps down because every playoff point matters, Jarrett said Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon have skillfully maximized points while minimizing potentially negative outcomes for the No. 22 during the playoffs.
“This is four races in a row for Joey Logano and his team to make something of literally a disaster for them,” Jarrett said. “They didn’t make that much at Dover once they had that problem, but the other two races in the Round of 12, they came back and made something after getting crashed at Talladega and here again (at Martinsville), having another problem that could have put them outside the top four here, but they came back and saved that.
“He was able to keep his wits about him – which is hard to do for a driver – and drive up through the field and get something of it.”
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