Why NASCAR's explanation of no-call on Elliott bumper falls short

OPINION: Once again on Sunday, NASCAR disregarded its standard operating procedure when it came to making a call against a high-profile driver and its explanation falls woefully short.

Why NASCAR's explanation of no-call on Elliott bumper falls short

Late in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race on the Charlotte Roval, the rear bumper cover of Chase Elliott’s #9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet dislodged and began dangling from behind his car.

Elliott had wrecked on lap 55 of 109 after being hit by Kevin Harvick, which left the reigning Cup champion with severe rear-end damage.

In virtually every case such situations have happened in the past when noticed by NASCAR, a race control official asks that the team be made aware of the issue, and most times, if the team doesn’t bring the car to pit road to address it, NASCAR will have the car black-flagged to ensure it does.

On Sunday, there was never a word on NASCAR race control radio about the #9 car’s bumper cover – not even a mention of it, let alone discussion of a possible black flag.

The lack of the discussion, or the display of a black flag, was widely noted - including by drivers on other teams over their radios.

On lap 87 – surprise, surprise – NASCAR was forced to throw a caution for debris on the track, as the bumper cover finally came off and landed on the racing surface.

The caution turned out to be a great benefit for Elliott. He had remained on the lead lap after his wreck, but far back in the field and more than 50 seconds behind the leader.

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

Not only did the caution allow the field to close up for the caution, but it gave Elliott a strong opportunity to gain numerous positions on what were often chaotic restarts.

As it turned out, Elliott rallied to finish 12th – a remarkable recovery considering the damage to his car and he advanced to the semi-final round of the series playoffs.

NASCAR's response

Scott Miller, NASCAR’s executive vice president of competition, was asked about NASCAR’s take on the incident Monday morning during an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s show, The Morning Drive.

His response made clear that NASCAR was aware of the issue from the beginning.

“You’ve probably seen bumper covers flapping a lot at Martinsville and us letting it go, so again those are situational things,” he said. “The bumper cover at high speed race tracks is actually part of the safety of the car - for when the car turns around backwards, having the bumper cover on there lowers the lift-up speed quite considerably. That wasn’t a requirement for the Roval, so we let it play out.

“Another thing that factored into it was he wasn’t in a pack of cars, where if it fell off someone would immediately run over it. Again, like everything we do in the tower, there is a lot of things to process and a lot of decisions to be made and that was the one we made yesterday because of all those factors.”

The problem with NASCAR’s explanation is glaring – it omits any reference to the sanctioning body’s repeated stated desire of race control not to interfere with the natural course of the race.

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Office, Matt DiBenedetto, Wood Brothers Racing, Ford Mustang Menards/Duracell

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Office, Matt DiBenedetto, Wood Brothers Racing, Ford Mustang Menards/Duracell

Photo by: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images

Whether or not the bumper cover hit another car is irrelevant, because once it came off on the Roval course, there was a near-100 percent chance it would still land on the track, which would force NASCAR to throw a caution. And that is exactly what happened.

Throwing a caution for something that could have been easily corrected and prevented without one completely interferes with the natural course of the race.

Elliott was not going to win the race either way, but he certainly benefitted from the caution and improved his position in the race – and the playoffs – with the help the caution provided. That is a quintessential example of affecting the outcome of the race.

Perhaps, though, it should not come as a surprise.

Just three weeks ago during the playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Harvick appeared on his way to a victory in the final laps when he came up on Elliott, who was a lapped car, while trying to fend off a fast-approaching Kyle Larson.

Elliott and Harvick had an incident about 30 laps prior while racing for the lead, which left Elliott with a flat tyre and forced him to pit under green.

Again, in nearly every other situation where a lapped car (not a car trying to stay on the lead lap) ends up ahead of a battle for the lead in a race, an official in race control asks that the team – particularly the spotter – of the lapped car be made aware of the leaders approaching.

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Hooters, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Subway Delivery

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Hooters, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Subway Delivery

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

Elliott never got out of the way of the approaching Harvick/Larson battle, instead remaining in front of Harvick as Larson got around him for the lead with four laps to go. Larson went on to win the race.

Not once as the situation unfolded was the #9 car mentioned on race control radio, let alone was the team asked to be informed of what was coming up behind him.

So far, these incidences have been attributed to “situational things.”

Yes, every situation is different. But before punishing any driver or team in the future for actions that affect the outcome of a race, NASCAR should first listen to its own silence on the issue.

shares
comments
NASCAR to make Next Gen car changes after crash test

Previous article

NASCAR to make Next Gen car changes after crash test

Next article

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022
Load comments
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Plus

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup Series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Plus

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR
Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Plus

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organisation - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR
Aug 31, 2021
The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin Plus

The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin

A multiple F3000 race winner, Marc Goossens was on the precipice of making Formula 1 in the 1990s - but a lack of budget left him without a path to the promised land. Turning to an illustrious racing career in sportscars, Goossens left the endurance circuit to try his hand at racing stock cars - and now calls the NASCAR Euro Series home

NASCAR
Jul 1, 2021
Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR Plus

Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR

There has never been a full-time British driver in the NASCAR Cup. But Alex Sedgwick, who is rising through the stock car ranks, wants that to change and could be a trailblazer for European talents to reach the top echelons of the NASCAR ladder

NASCAR
Feb 28, 2021
How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport Plus

How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport

It's 20 years since legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr died at the Daytona 500, but the legacy of his crash continues today through the pioneering safety work done by NASCAR

NASCAR
Feb 18, 2021
The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021 Plus

The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season

NASCAR
Feb 12, 2021
How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career Plus

How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a shot at redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith

NASCAR
Feb 11, 2021