UPDATE 4: November 2, 2020 — 6:40 PM ET
NASCAR has officially ruled that there will be no penalties stemming from Martinsville Speedway for Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones or Kevin Harvick.
NASCAR released a statement at 6:30 PM ET confirming that Jones would not be penalized. Upon follow up from TobyChristie.com, NASCAR clarified that Hamlin and Harvick were in the clear as well.
Here’s the full story:
UPDATE 3: November 2, 2020 — 4:39 PM ET
A video posted by twitter user @VincentJBruins includes the audio of the communication from Erik Jones’ team telling the driver to not pass Denny Hamlin late in Sunday’s race at Martinsville.
Personally, I'm fine with team orders the way they played out during yesterday's race at Martinsville, but Erik Jones was indeed told "don't pass him [Hamlin], Jones". pic.twitter.com/veKNnqKFq0
— Vincent Bruins (@VincentJBruins) November 2, 2020
There is still no updated on either the Jones/Hamlin investigation or the Harvick last lap crash investigation from NASCAR at this time.
UPDATE 2: November 2, 2020 — 2:10 PM ET
While no official updates on the status of the investigation of the radio communications from Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones from the closing laps of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville have been provided from NASCAR, yet, NBC Sports has released a report including quotes from Jones’ radio.
According to NBC Sports, Jones’ crew chief Chris Gayle radioed to Jones: “(Hamlin is) going to race you hard because he needs to, because it’s within like three points for those guys. He’s going to race you hard because it’s three points on those guys. Just so you’re aware.”
Jones responded: “I’ve got a huge gap behind me.”
And then a short time later, Jones’ spotter Rick Carelli radioed: “Don’t pass him, Jones. Stay with him and drive what you can.”
So, it certainly seems as though Jones was told to stay behind his teammate Hamlin, who was one point to the good at the time in the Championship grid. Whether this counts as race manipulation to NASCAR remains to be seen, but these quotes are not great evidence for the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers.
UPDATE 1: November 2, 2020 — 9:53 AM ET
NASCAR’s Scott Miller, on his appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, also said that the sanctioning body will be looking into Kevin Harvick’s last lap move in which Kyle Busch was intentionally spun in an effort for Harvick to make up the point he needed to get into the Championship 4.
“That will be something we look at,” Miller explained. “The race was over and we have to sort of move on to all of what we do post-race to get the cars captured and get them to inspection. That will be something else that we kind of look at today. I personally haven’t even seen sort of the incident yet…”
“…something that we’ll look at but it was not going to change anything last night. So, we’ll review that one (Monday) as well.”
If NASCAR decides on penalties for both Harvick and Hamlin in the wake of Sunday’s race, there is an outside shot that Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman makes it into the Championship 4, as he was the sixth-place driver in the Playoff Grid after last night’s race.
When Bubba Wallace admitted to intentionally spinning at Texas Motor Speedway last year, NASCAR assessed him a 50-point penalty. Harvick essentially admitted that the contact with Busch was intentional following Sunday’s race.
“Tried to run into the door the No. 18 as a last ditch effort there and spun him out,” Harvick explained. “Sorry to put him in the middle of trying to gain a point.”
If NASCAR determines the move was a foul, there could be a similar penalty assessed for Harvick like what was given to Wallace last season.
Rick Ware Racing, Spire Motorsports and Premium Motorsports were each docked 50-points for their parts in the in-race manipulation at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year. If NASCAR rules that Hamlin and Jones manipulated the outcome, there could be a similar penalty.
Alex Bowman ended Sunday’s race well within 50-points of both drivers in the championship standings.
ORIGINAL STORY: November 2, 2020 — 9:40 AM ET
There is a chance that Kevin Harvick has not actually been eliminated from Playoff contention. It’s a very slim chance, but there is a chance nonetheless.
In the closing laps of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Denny Hamlin was holding a slim one-point advantage over Kevin Harvick in the Playoff point standings. However, there was one problem for Hamlin: His teammate Erik Jones was closing fast and even initiated contact with the No. 11 car for the position.
Then, Jones cooled down and Hamlin stayed ahead for the remainder of the event. Needing one last point, Harvick made a desperation move to keep his hopes alive. He worked his No. 4 Ford Mustang to the inside of Kyle Busch and made contact, but spun himself.
Hamlin advanced and Harvick was eliminated.
However, many on social media began saying that while listening to Jones’ radio communications that they heard him be told not to pass Hamlin under any circumstances, while this has not been verified, NASCAR has admitted that they are looking into the radio communications. Scott Miller addressed the issue on his Monday morning stop on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
ICYMI: @NASCAR's Scott Miller explains the rescinded penalty for the @Hendrick9Team and said they have to look again at how @JoeGibbsRacing teammates raced each other at the end yesterday at @MartinsvilleSwy @TheMikeBagley | @PPistone | #TMDNASCAR | #NASCARPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/oR7CcE5mFz
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) November 2, 2020
“Well, we have to review that one a little bit more today, and listen to the radio communication,” Miller stated. “But from my viewpoint, Erik Jones is beating the bumper off of the No. 11, so it didn’t look like there was much going on there. It was pretty hard racing, but we will review the radio communication today and see if there is any action to be taken.”
It’s important to note, that during the course of a live race, it’s hard for NASCAR to get a good grasp of what is happening over the radio. A couple of weeks ago at Kansas Speedway, Chase Elliott lost radio communication with his team, including his spotter, which is a rule violation with NASCAR. NASCAR when poking into Elliott’s radio a couple of times during the race determined that Elliott had communication with his team.
A day after the race, Miller admitted that Elliott should have been penalized to fix his radio issues.
Could we see a similar ruling here?
While this certainly does not guarantee anything nefarious happened between the two JGR cars to alter the outcome of the race, NASCAR scrutinizing the radio communication could lead to an interesting result, especially if what was claimed to be said on Twitter was actually said on the radio.
If you recall, last season NASCAR determined in the wake of the final race of the season that Premium Motorsports and Rick Ware Racing partook in some foolery to give the No. 27 Premium Motorsports team a few extra points, which secured them the extra bonus money over Gaunt Brothers Racing for being the top non-chartered NASCAR Cup Series team.
After reviewing the radio communications from the race, NASCAR docked the No. 27 team points and levied sanctions against every team involved in the altering of the race. The Gaunt Brothers Racing team as a result ended up as the top non-charter team.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.