NASCAR escapes slippery slope after Gateway wreck

Austin Cindric, Team Penske, Gateway, NASCAR (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Austin Cindric, Team Penske, Gateway, NASCAR (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images) /

NASCAR made the decision not to suspend Austin Cindric after Sunday’s Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon called for Team Penske’s Austin Cindric to be suspended for this coming Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway after the two made contact coming down the front straightaway in this past Sunday’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

Contact was made between Cindric’s No. 2 Ford and Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet, causing Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet to veer right, driving JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. into the wall in the process. Dillon and Stenhouse were taken out, while Cindric stayed in the race and finished in 13th place.

Team owner Richard Childress stated matter-of-factly that Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon as payback, and Dillon compared the incident to Chase Elliott hooking Denny Hamlin in the right rear at Charlotte Motor Speedway the week prior and Bubba Wallace hooking Kyle Larson in the right rear at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last October.

NASCAR viewed both moves as intentional acts of retaliation, so Elliott and Wallace were both suspended for one race.

Cindric, on the other hand, was not suspended for this coming Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway. However, this was undoubtedly the right decision.

Given the reaction from Dillon and Childress, it seemed relatively obvious what was going on here.

After NASCAR admitted that they reviewed the data and suspended Elliott to remain consistent with the suspension they issued to Wallace last October, it seemed inevitable that somebody, at some point, would try to take advantage of this “consistency” principle.

Drivers accusing competitors of intentionally hooking them in the right rear was bound to become more common. After all, the precedent had been set, and NASCAR had effectively inadvertently set themselves up to deal with a slippery slope.

Fortunately, NASCAR handled it well and did not allow it to become a bigger problem.

Whether that was Dillon’s goal or not, only he knows. However, it was relatively obvious to everyone watching that Cindric’s move was nowhere near on the level of Wallace’s move or Elliott’s move. But given the recency of the latter, it wasn’t all that surprising to see someone jumping to the opposite conclusion.

The only point at which Cindric’s car twitched to the left came after Dillon had already turned across his nose. If anything, it looks as if Cindric tried to move to the right to avoid contact, but the contact had already been made. By no means did he “hook him in the right rear”.

Following NASCAR’s correct decision to take no action against Cindric, Cindric shared the data from the incident and issued a statement on social media.

As long as NASCAR continues to look at the data before making decisions, they will have avoided a relatively slippery slope. It won’t matter how many drivers make accusations of intentional retaliation.

Having said that, NASCAR has set themselves up to deal with these accusations more often than they’d probably like to, and the fact that they actually need to take the time to review situations that clearly don’t rise to the level of a suspension just seems a bit ridiculous.

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