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


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.

NASCAR explains why Chase Elliott wasn’t penalized on last pit stop

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In the wake of Chase Elliott‘s first career Cup win Sunday at Watkins Glen, a question was raised over why the Hendrick Motorsports driver wasn’t penalized during his final pit stop for removing equipment from his pit box.

On Lap 55, the field came to pit road during the final caution of the race. As Elliott left his pit box, front tire changer Nick O’Dell was crossing in front of the car, with his pit gun in hand. The car knocked the tire changer to the ground in the pit box directly in front of Elliott’s.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, took to Twitter after the race to answer a fan asking why it didn’t qualify as a penalty.

A NASCAR spokesperson added further clarification, saying Elliott’s car wasn’t removing the equipment and that crew members are allowed to move through the adjacent box after completing service to the car.

In the NASCAR rulebook, section 10.9.10.a dictates rules for servicing equipment, but does not say anything about how NASCAR officiates in allowing crew members to go out of the box with equipment.


Text chain helps drivers receive clarification from NASCAR on securing lug nuts outside box

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CHARLOTTE – NASCAR Cup drivers confused over the lack of a penalty to Jimmie Johnson’s team Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway sought clarity in the most 21st century of ways.

Their smartphones.

Denny Hamlin, the founder of the series’ Drivers Council, said a text chain his group uses with NASCAR executives Scott Miller and Steve O’Donnell helped explain why Johnson didn’t receive a penalty for his team securing lug nuts outside its pit stall.

“I had questions along with many other drivers,” Hamlin said Tuesday during a news conference to unveil his No. 11 Toyota’s Martinsville paint scheme that highlights a FedEx partnership with Walgreens. “So I went to our Driver Council texts, and Miller and O’Donnell both explained it the same way as they did everyone else. I thought for sure it was a penalty, but I can also see sometimes you’re gassing the car as the cars are rolling through the pit stall, and that’s not ever a penalty.

“I think it’s kind of a judgment call. The way they explained to me is that they chose for it not to be a penalty; not that anything is written black and white in the rulebook about being able to secure lug nuts outside the pit box.”

Miller explained in a Monday interview on SiriusXM Satellite Radio why NASCAR hadn’t communicated the policy to teams.

During a test at Martinsville, Kyle Larson said he didn’t agree with the call because NASCAR’s rulebook says that service must be completed within the pit stall (NASCAR officials have said Johnson wasn’t penalized because the team tightened lug nuts – a maneuver to ensure safety — after the stop was complete).

“I’m sure Jimmie and their team would agree … they didn’t follow the rule,” Larson said. “I would like to see NASCAR just use the rule, make us back all the way up to our pit stall like we typically do. I know I think they said that him losing spots on pit road was already a penalty in itself. Not really, because if he would have gotten the penalty he deserved, he would have been behind the lapped cars.

“I don’t think it was the right penalty. I would hope that if it happens to us or anybody else they would do the right thing.”

Hamlin said the Drivers Council primarily started the text chain with NASCAR officials to set times for meetings, but it also is used for communication in other ways (such as this clarification). “We constantly have advice for O’Donnell and Miller,” he said.

Contributing: Dustin Long in Martinsville

Pole-sitter Kyle Busch hit with pit penalty early in Stage 2 at Chicago (video)

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After leading 85 laps and winning Stage 1 of the NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener, pole-sitter Kyle Busch is off the lead lap following an early Stage 2 pit penalty.

Busch pitted on Lap 96 for a vibration. He was then penalized for pit crew members going over the wall too soon.

Busch was two laps down after leaving pit road the second time. He quickly got one lap back and returned to the lead lap following a round of green flag pit stops. He pitted for tires again with just over 30 laps left in the stage and is now one lap down.

The pit penalty comes after the teams of Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez swapped pit crews.

Busch was the fourth playoff driver to be penalized on Sunday after Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Austin Dillon were issued penalties in Stage 1.