‘He Went Early’ Officials Clear Denny Hamlin Of Wrongdoing But Drivers Have Doubts

While stock car racing might be known for its creative gamesmanship and full-contact action, Denny Hamlin might have crossed the line by apparently jumping the final restart yesterday at Richmond Raceway. NASCAR race officials deemed his actions fair, but Hamlin’s fellow competitors disagreed. It’s Monday, March 25, 2024 and this is Racing Recap, your summary of last weekend’s motorsports action.

NASCAR’s Wet Blanket Wet Tire Policy

Cup Series takes the green flag for a wet-weather start at Richmond | NASCAR

Rain delayed the start of Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400, but the damp track allowed the NASCAR Cup Series to use its wet-weather oval tires at a points-paying event for the first time. Extremely cautious would be the best way to describe NASCAR’s use of wet tires. Every driver was mandated to start the race on the threaded compound and couldn’t switch to slicks until race officials deemed the track dry enough. Once that call was made, the yellow flag was waved and all the teams made non-competitive pitstops. Drivers couldn’t lose or gain positions on pit road. It’s better to be safe than sorry, but hopefully, NASCAR allows more risks to be taken in the future.

Hamlin Escapes Punishment For Alleged Jump Start

Nascar Cup Series: Toyota Owners 400 | NASCAR on FOX

By the final stage’s closing laps, Martin Truex Jr. had one hand on the trophy with a sizable lead over Penske’s Joey Logano. His trip to victory lane was put in jeopardy when the caution came out with two laps to go. Kyle Larson got loose on the exit of Turn 4, and Bubba Wallace helped him into a spin as the pair battled for fourth place.

Everyone headed down pit road for a fresh set of tires with overtime looming. Denny Hamlin’s crew was able to jump the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry ahead of Logano and Truex Jr. to the lead. All Hamlin had to do to secure the race win was stay in first for two laps. As he rolled up to the restart zone, the Virginian seemingly slammed the throttle before he entered the designated piece of pavement. He got a good jump on his teammate Truex Jr. and pulled clear by the backstretch.

Hamlin was gone and took his fifth career win at Richmond, his home track. Truex Jr. slipped down the order to fourth and drove angry. He spent the final lap slamming his car against Larson’s Chevy. Once they crossed the finish line, he drove up to Hamlin’s rear bumper and bashed it a couple of times. While Truex calmed down after stepping out of his car, he still had words for Hamlin on the Fox broadcast, “He jumped the start and then just used me up in Turn 1.”

NASCAR didn’t see anything wrong with Hamlin’s restart despite the video footage. Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said in a post-race interview, “We reviewed that, we looked at it. Obviously, the 11 was the control vehicle. It was awful close, but we deemed it to be a good restart.” It’s difficult to agree when you can see Hamlin launch off before the line.

Race Results

1. – Denny Hamlin (Gibbs)
2. – Joey Logano (Penske) – +0.269 seconds
3. – Kyle Larson (Hendrick) – +0.628 seconds
4. – Martin Truex Jr. (Gibbs) – +0.640 seconds
5. – Chase Elliot (Hendrick) – +0.873 seconds

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