NASCAR Clarifies Restart Rules After Denny Hamlin's Jumped Start Controversy

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NASCAR Clarifies Restart Rules After ControversyAlex Slitz - Getty Images

Since Sunday evening's NASCAR race at Richmond ended with a potentially jumped start, the subject in stock car racing communities has been the way late-race restarts are officiated. Comments from NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer on the way the call was made only added to the confusion on Tuesday, but a representative from the race series has clarified to Road & Track that the series officiates every restart in the same way and Sunday's call at Richmond was a matter of certainty with limited time for review.

"NASCAR officiates lap 1 to 400 (or whatever number) the same," NASCAR's spokesperson told R&T. "That’s the goal. But when there’s a potential penalty that needs to be reviewed, and done so with two laps remaining at a short track, the sense of urgency is extremely high – much higher than at 'lap 10, or 50 or 300.' It doesn’t mean the call would change if it were earlier in the race. But we’d have much more time to review multiple angles, SMT [telemetry tracking data], etc. When it’s at the end of the race, and the stakes are high – taking a win away from someone is obviously a considerable penalty – we need to feel 100 percent confident in our decision to take a win away. In race control on Sunday night, we felt that it was the right call and stood by it. With the benefit of 36 hours of review, it became clear that the 11 did go early."

In this specific case, that would mean Hamlin's slight jump seen on review was not egregious enough to justify an immediate call in the moment. Without time left in the race to review every element of the restart, the series chose not to make a call without certainty and let the race continue to play out. Hamlin won as a result, holding on to the track position he and his team gained from a solid race and one excellent pit stop.

The representative also added that Sawyer did not mean races are officiated differently in the closing laps. The restart rules are consistent, but the lack of time for video and tracking data review means that series officials need to make a call more quickly with a more limited set of tools and can only do that when a clear jump creates a distinct benefit. Drivers can try to play in those margins in between if they choose, but the gray area is not big enough to confidently go for an advantage. It may not be worth the risk of losing a race on a significant jump.

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