Don’t let the above image fool you, Mason Diaz didn’t win Saturday’s South Carolina 400. In fact, Diaz didn’t even see the checkered flag in the event, finishing 23rd, retiring 12 laps short of the scheduled 200-lap distance.
In fact, the circumstances surrounding his retirement from Saturday’s 200-lap contest were some of the oddest in a while, after the 22-year-old straight-up climbed out of his car under caution and walked away.
The Manassas, Virginia-native, who has competed part-time between the NASCAR Xfinity Series and ARCA Menards Series since 2018, could be seen climbing from his car, to be met at the pit road will by his Chad Bryant Racing team members.
After walking off, FloRacing’s Jacklyn Drake spoke to Diaz while walking down pit road, where the tenured short track racer showed his displeasure with the officiating surrounding the event, specifically in regards to his incidents with Sam Yarborough.
“This team, right here, they’re standing behind me,” Diaz told FloRacing. “We got wrecked by the No. 95, nothing happened. I don’t even know why the caution came out beforehand. The track gave [Yarborough] his spot back, he wrecks me, and I don’t get my spot back, so they can tow my car off.”
The incidents referenced by Diaz happened on back-to-back restarts with less than 15 laps to go in the final stage. While battling for the lead, Yarborough drifted high, dropping two tires off-track and spinning around.
Despite the incident, NASCAR officials allowed Yarborough to reclaim his position at the front of the field, meaning he would lineup next to Mason Diaz on the next double-file restart, ultimately leading to the second half of the problem.
— NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) November 20, 2022
After a long, heated discussion while under caution flag – which at one point, just about took out the pace car – Yarborough used the next restart as an opportunity to get revenge on the Chad Bryant Racing driver, spinning him when the race went back green.
Diaz’s confusion – and anger – seems to largely stem from being sent to the tail-end of the longest line, which essentially ended his chances at winning the South Carolina 400, when Yarborough wasn’t on the previous caution.
“He got his spot back the last caution, so why can’t I get mine back,” he continued to tell FloRacing while walking down pit road. Apparently, NASCAR officials never actually distinguished the differences between the two events.
After the event, Chad Bryant, the owner of Diaz’s entry, and the winner of the last two iterations of the South Carolina 400 with Ty Majeski, told Racing America’s Matt Weaver after the event, that the flagger independently threw the caution, and that race control didn’t.
The Chad Bryant Racing crew say the flagger went into business for himself and threw the caution and not the race director
For what it's worth
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverRA) November 20, 2022
Take that knowledge and combine it with the other officiating-related mishaps this weekend – Diaz’s position retention frustrations, Earnhardt’s two end-of-line penalties, and confusion from qualifying – and you have a pretty messy race at Florence Motor Speedway.
…and yet, that doesn’t even take into account the reality that the event started two hours later than originally scheduled, which is the reason you’re seeing this story at 2:30 AM, and not 12:30 AM.