National Championship Pushed Layne Riggs to the Max
Sep 25, 2022
Add William Byron to the list of contenders Denny Hamlin has vowed to retaliate against over the final six weeks of the Cup Series playoffs.
Byron appeared to intentionally spin Hamlin as soon as the caution came out on Lap 269 of Sunday’s Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway following a sequence of hard racing inside the top-five between the two during the previous green flag run.
Hamlin blended back onto the track a few positions behind where he was spun, but was not permitted his spot back, while no penalty was called for Byron -- much to the chagrin of the Joe Gibbs No. 11 team. When told of the lack of penalty, Hamlin said he would enforce his own penalty on the track, but no opportunity presented itself.
Byron said he wasn’t going to take almost getting walled from Hamlin.
"Yeah, he ran me out of room," Byron said. "The toe link. We're lucky we finished. It was really, really hard contact. It wasn't like just a light contact or anything like that. Yeah, I didn't mean to obviously spin him out over there. Obviously I'm pissed off, just not going to get run like that. We've always raced so well together. I don't know what it was all about. The No. 19 (Truex) took his air away, he ran out of racetrack, so he chose to run me out of racetrack completely.
"Again, look, it's not like it was just contact. I thought we were going to be done."
Byron conceded the contact was intentional but was adamant the intent was never to spin Hamlin.
"I mean, obviously, yeah, I went to go show my displeasure," Byron added. "I didn't mean to hit him and spin him out. There's a ton of guys that do this and go do something like that. I see it all the time. I'm just not going to get run like that. There's really no reason. We're running second and third I think. Had a shot to win. Killed our car, for sure. That was a bummer."
He also suggested they would probably talk at some point.
Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart carried several conversation over their team radio over the disbelief that racers can seemingly intentionally crash each other under yellow without consequence. Johnny Sauter was suspended a race during the regular season for a similar action at Iowa Speedway in 2019.
"I guess we can just wreck each other under caution," Hamlin said. "I tried to wreck him back. Yeah, I don't think we touched. I got to look. I don't think we touched. Obviously he sent us into the infield under caution."
Speaking to attending reporters on Sunday night, NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller says race control missed the accident, despite the television broadcast replaying the incident multiple times afterwards.
"Have to be honest, when we were in the tower, we were paying attention to the actual cause of the caution and dispatching our equipment," Miller said to the attending beat writers. "The William Byron, Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw him go through the grass, and by time we got to a replay that shows the incident well enough to do anything to it, we went back to green.
"I’m not sure that issue is completely resolved yet so we’ll look at that when we get back to work."
In other words, there could be a penalty coming for Byron and the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 team, with both Byron and Hamlin racing for the Cup Series championship in the Round of 12.
Hamlin, who has also vowed retaliation against Ross Chastain at some point in the playoffs, issued a similar edict towards Byron. It doesn’t matter that they said it wasn’t their intent to escalate it in that fashion.
"I mean, you know, I keep hearing these guys," Hamlin said. "I'll just add it to the list of guys when I get a chance. They're going to get it."
During the playoffs?
"It all just works itself out," Hamlin said. "We'll be racing each other at some point. He'll lose a lot of spots because he's racing me. This is hard racing, obviously. I'm fine with hard racing.
"But wrecking me under caution is obviously not what we were bargaining for. So thanks to my FedEx Toyota team for bouncing back. Obviously it cost us all of our track position. I thought we were in a great position to win until we got sent back to 20 something there."