NASCAR: Richmond finish ignites insane conspiracy theory

The fact that it was a 23XI Racing driver causing the caution that led to the 23XI Racing owner's second win of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season raised some eyebrows.

Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, Richmond Raceway, NASCAR
Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, Richmond Raceway, NASCAR / Alex Slitz/GettyImages

If NASCAR were "fair", Martin Truex Jr. would have earned his first Cup Series victory since July 2023 on Easter Sunday night at Richmond Raceway to cap off a rather interesting seventh race of the 2024 season.

If typical NASCAR races in the stage racing era were about a whole lot more than the last handful of laps, it would have been the driver of the No. 19 Toyota standing in victory lane, not his teammate, who had just won two weeks ago prior when the Cup Series most recently visited another short track.

But sometimes races aren't fair, and sometimes the last few seconds are literally the only few seconds that truly count in the NASCAR world.

And how those last few seconds played out certainly had fans talking for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, NASCAR appeared to have made a mistake by not penalizing Denny Hamlin's jumpstart on the restart, the overtime restart for which he gained the lead with a faster pit stop than Truex. It seemed clear to anybody who watched it that he went before the restart zone. That said, it was arguably even more clear that he would have won the race anyway.

But it's what led to that restart which had a certain contingent of NASCAR fans talking.

Truex looked like he was back to his late 2010s/early 2020s version of himself at Richmond Raceway, leading a career-high 228 laps, more than half of the 407-lap race around the four-turn, 0.75-mile (1.207-kilometer) Richmond, Virginia oval.

He was well onto his way to a fourth win in six years at the track until Hendrick Motorsports' Kyle Larson was spun by 23XI Racing's Bubba Wallace on the frontstretch with two laps remaining.

That caution ultimately set up the pivotal pit stop sequence which saw Hamlin emerge as the leader.

Wallace competes for the team Hamlin co-owns with Michael Jordan -- the Jumpstart man and the Jumpman, if you will.

Did the driver of the No. 23 Toyota cause the caution to give his team owner a better chance to win the race?

While it may have made the rounds on social media (consider the source), that was ultimately never a legitimate talking point among the drivers after the race.

Larson himself dismissed the notion, though ironically the incident ended up helping him since he was able to save his car after the spin, losing only two spots in the process.

He proceeded to gain two spots in the pits, and he made up a spot on the restart by passing the faltering -- and irate -- Truex.

It ultimately looked like Wallace simply made a mistake, and it was clear that Larson knew there was no malintent. Wallace also finished in 13th place, eight spots behind where he was running at the time of the incident, so even aside from the conspiracy theory about him possibly aiding his team owner, he would have had no reason to pull anything suspicious for his own gain.

Whether or not Larson's feelings would have been the same had the incident actually cost him more than, well, a net gain of one position, nobody will ever know,

Next. NASCAR: The unexpected offseason gamble that is clearly paying off. NASCAR: The unexpected offseason gamble that is clearly paying off. dark

But what we do know is that helping Hamlin was the furthest thing from Wallace's mind as he made contact with the No. 5 Chevrolet at a point in time when Truex appeared poised to secure career win number 35.