Following a series of incidents during the recent race at Pocono Raceway, NASCAR officials, including Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, are planning discussions with several of the Cup drivers at the center of it all.
During the race, an altercation on the track occurred between Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson as they were vying for the lead with just seven laps left in the race. As they raced, it seems some level of contact or interaction occurred between the two cars, resulting in Larson being unable to take the lead and Hamlin winning the race, leaving Larson to ultimately finish 20th.
After the incident between the two drivers and under caution (meaning the yellow flag was out due to some issue on the track, requiring drivers to slow down), Larson showed his frustration by “door-slamming” Hamlin’s car. Despite this aggressive move however, NASCAR officials saw nothing wrong with how the two drivers raced each other, and neither driver is expected to be penalized for this particular incident.
“We have two of the greatest race car drivers that we’ve probably seen in the history of our sport behind the 11 and the 5 steering wheels,” said Sawyer as he tried to explain how the officials on the ground at the track viewed the situation. “They’re future Hall of Famers, and we’re seven laps to go and they’re both doing everything they can to win the race.
“So when you come up short on that, for whatever reason, if you feel like you’ve been done wrong, you’re going to be upset. You’re going to want to show your displeasure,” he continued. “Those guys are professionals. I feel like they will handle that appropriately. If we feel like we need to get involved more, we will, but at this time I don’t see anything we need to do on our side.”
Another incident at the same race involved Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick, with contact sending Dillon into the SAFER barrier. Dillon responded by throwing his helmet at Reddick’s car. Officials plan to speak to both drivers, though penalties are unlikely. Sawyers said to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials plan to talk to Dillon and Reddick individually as well.
“When you get down to the end of the race and you’re in position to have a strong finish, totally understand the emotion, didn’t see anything there [that warranted a penalty],” Sawyer said. “We plan to have a conversation with both of those guys to make sure we’re in a good headspace as we go into Richmond. We’ve said it before… our drivers get very emotional, which is part of what is the draw for our fans.”
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Things didn’t stop there however as far as driver antics go. In a separate incident, Ryan Preece spun after contact with Corey LaJoie’s car. The duo is also slated for talks with officials.
Driver Joey Logano also expressed frustration about the time taken to tow his car after a collision with the SAFER barrier left him with flat tires. He proposed a safety vehicle equipped with extra tires, but Sawyer pointed out logistical complications.