PLANO, Texas â Denny Hamlin says NASCAR needs to tell drivers that there will be a âhuge penaltyâ for intentionally causing a caution after spins the past two weeks in Cup playoff races raised questions about such tactics.
Kyle Larson and his team were upset with Bubba Wallace on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway after Wallace had a flat tire and spun. Larson said âHelen Keller could have seenâ that Wallaceâs spin was intentional and that such actions will continue until NASCAR penalizes drivers. Richard Petty Motorsports tweeted a picture of the flat left rear tire.
Wallaceâs spin came during the middle of a green-flag pit cycle. Larsonâs team was among those that had pitted and caught a lap down. While Larson took the wave around, he could not make up the lost track position in the final 90 laps and finished 12th. He trails Joey Logano by 23 points for the final transfer spot to the championship race heading into the seasonâs penultimate race at ISM Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)
Hamlin has no doubt that Wallaceâs act was intentional but doesnât blame the driver for doing so.
âBubbaâs (spin) this weekend was pretty obvious and obviously it hurt some people and helped others,â Hamlin said Monday morning at Toyota Motor North America Headquarters. âHeâs just following in everyone elseâs footsteps. Itâs been going on for a long time. Especially this time of the season, it can potentially change a lot of things in the playoffs that it shouldnât.â
A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports on Sunday that series officials reviewed Wallaceâs spin and determined that it did not warrant a penalty.
Hamlin said officials should make it clear to competitors how significant the penalty for intentionally causing a caution could be.
âAt least they need to set out if you do it, then there is going to be a huge penalty,â said Hamlin, who was penalized two laps for stopping on the track to cause a caution in the May 2008 Cup race at Richmond. âAt least that will deter you. It wonât stop it, but it will deter you if you know youâre going to get a two-lap, three-lap penalty for intentionally causing a caution. Itâs tough for them to police it, but they police a lot of things.â
Steve OâDonnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials may have to react.
âWell itâs going be a judgment call, for sure,â OâDonnell said. âI think thatâs something, you know, as momentum builds or you see a trend and youâve got to react, you do.
âWe tend to trust the teams out there and the drivers maybe too much at times. But weâll certainly take a look at that. Obviously, didnât make a call during the race Sunday. If itâs something weâve got to address, weâll talk to the drivers and race teams over the week. If we need to address it, we will in the drivers meeting ahead of Sundayâs race (at ISM Raceway) and make sure weâre staying on top of that.â
In a rules card given to each crew chief, it states: âAny driver who, in the judgment of NASCAR Officials, intentionally causes or attempts to cause a caution period by stopping or spinning out or any other action will be penalized at NASCARâs discretion.â
Hamlin also called out Loganoâs spin last weekend at Martinsville. Hamlin and Logano had contact and it cut one of Loganoâs tires. He spun, bringing out the caution.
âThe 22 spun on purpose at Martinsville,â Hamlin said of Logano. âEveryone knows that.â
That spin was cited on Larsonâs radio as he and his team vented after Wallaceâs spin Sunday.
Logano defended his actions in the Martinsville race.
âI had a flat tire last week,â Logano said Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. âWhat do you want me to do? Iâll try not to spin out. Iâm not that good. I wish I was that good. That would be really good. I was good enough to spin out and not hit anything so that was good.â
Kyle Busch noted that Loganoâs spin at Martinsville impacted his race.
âThereâs countless times that you could look at guys that cause cautions and brought out cautions purposely,â Busch said Monday at Toyota Motor North America Headquarters. âItâs frustrating for sure, especially for us at Martinsville, I think, actually the Logano one ruined our day.
âEither (NASCAR is) going to get involved and fix it or it is going to continue on. If guys get flats or whatever, theyâre going to spin themselves out to try to draw a caution so they donât go laps down. Iâve tried not to do that.
âI can look back at Kansas earlier this year, we got a bad tire rub and I knew I had to come to pit road otherwise it was going to go flat and cost ourselves two laps and finish 30th. Could have spun myself out and stayed on the lead lap and probably finished 10th or eighth or ninth or whatever. Itâs NASCARâs job to figure it out.â