Should NASCAR Have Penalized Denny Hamlin For Restart At Richmond?

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Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag for his 53rd NASCAR Cup Series win and his fifth at Richmond, but it wasn’t without controversy.

Martin Truex Jr. had dominated the race. The No. 19 Toyota led 228 laps and held the lead with just two laps to go. Unfortunately for Truex, Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace tangled, causing the fifth caution of the race. Since Truex had not taken the last-lap white flag, NASCAR sent the race into overtime with a green-white-checkered finish.

Under caution, all the cars pitted with Hamlin coming out first. That wasn’t the controversy, that was Hamlin’s advantage to take over the lead. Hamlin held off Truex’s challenge to take the lead and took the checkered flag.

Truex calmly explained the results as he accused Hamlin of jumping the restart.

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After the race, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer told reporters that Hamlin did not jump the restart.

“We reviewed (the restart),” Sawyer said, per NASCAR Insider Bob Pockrass. “We looked at that. Obviously, the 11 (car) was the control vehicle. It was awful close, but we deemed it to be a good restart.”

On his own podcast “Actions Detrimental,” Hamlin admits that he jumped the restart.

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“All I’m doing is looking mirror side,” Hamlin said on the podcast. “When I see (Truex) starting to creep, I’m like, ‘I take off.’ So I don’t see where I’m at in the zone, and so I can concede, definitely, that it is a few feet early.”

Sawyer reiterated that Hamlin won the battle off pit road and earned the right to be in the lead position, but changed his stance on the restart itself.

“As I looked at it again yesterday, multiple times, there’s no doubt he rolled early,” Sawyer said on SiriusXM’s NASCAR Radio. “It’s a bang-bang call. It’s at the end of the race at a live sporting event. We don’t have the luxury of a time out and going to the sidelines and review it and make that call.

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“If this happens at lap 10 or 50 or 300 the call would have been different. If I’m a competitor, I would not be playing that game every week.”

Hamlin admitted he jumped early and NASCAR acknowledged the same; should the No. 11 car still earn the win? It appears NASCAR may just have set a precedent for future infractions.

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