Did NASCAR incriminate themselves with William Byron incident?

William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Given comments made by Scott Miller, did NASCAR incriminate themselves en route to penalizing William Byron for his contact with Denny Hamlin?

Just after the caution flag flew for race leader Martin Truex Jr.’s flat tire and subsequent spin on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, William Byron ran into the back of Denny Hamlin, sending him for a spin through the infield grass. But while the move was obviously intentional and Hamlin and his #11 team made their frustration known on the radio, NASCAR did not respond.

Byron, who had felt that Hamlin ran him out of room coming out of turn two a few laps prior, instead kept his position, while Hamlin was not allowed to return to where he was, which was one spot ahead of the #24 Chevrolet.

However, after the race, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller stated that NASCAR had “missed” the incident, as their focus was on the cause of the caution in the form of Truex’s wrecked #19 Toyota.

Miller did discuss the penalties Byron might have been assessed, had NASCAR actually seen the accident when it actually took place — like literally everybody else watching the race.

Byron could have been sent to the rear of the field, or Hamlin could have simply been allowed to retain his position, which would have cost Byron only one position but allowed Hamlin a better chance to fight for a better finish. Byron ultimately finished in seventh place, three spots ahead of Hamlin in 10th.

Did NASCAR incriminate themselves by revealing this information?

Byron ended up being docked 25 points, which meant that he dropped from third place in the standings, 17 points above the round of 8 cut line with two races remaining in the round of 12, to 10th, eight points below it.

Had NASCAR done what they should have done, Byron would have been sent to the rear of the field. Considering the fact that 25 cars finished on the lead lap, Byron would have finished, at worst, in 25th place.

A 25th place finish would have netted him 18 points less than what he scored in seventh, and he would have had the opportunity to make up several positions to effectively lessen that penalty.

But with the 25-point penalty, he ended up scoring what he would have scored with a 32nd place finish.

Even if NASCAR had parked him, he only would have finished in 30th place and scored 23 points less than he actually scored. A 25-point penalty, to go along with a $50,000 fine, was even a harsher punishment than had NASCAR parked him, and parking him was never even mentioned as a possibility.

While a penalty of some sort was justified, was this post-race penalty issued for anything more than NASCAR covering themselves for their own mistake of “missing” the incident on Sunday?

It seems as though Byron’s points penalty amounts to him paying for NASCAR’s mistake more so than paying for his own and that NASCAR is only digging a deeper hole for themselves after their inexplicable lack of attentiveness.

In fact, we saw earlier this year when NASCAR missed a blatant violation — even more clear-cut than this one — and completely ignored it afterward. So it’s even a challenge to make the argument than they are setting much of a precedent, given their proven lack of consistency.

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As expected, Hendrick Motorsports are indeed appealing William Byron’s penalty. While there is little reason to believe that the penalty will be completely scrapped, this could all perhaps be used to justify reducing the 25-point amount to something far more reasonable, like 10 or 15 points — or 18.