Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas was an incredible race. It had fierce battles for the lead, natural cautions, and overall the race just felt like a perfect example of what you’d like to see in a NASCAR race.
Then, a late race caution changed everything. And what was once a hotly contested, yet clean, race devolved into a caution-breeds-caution wreck-fest in the closing laps.
The final few restarts of the race were filled with so many drivers turning other drivers for positions that many fans and people within the industry called for NASCAR to start dropping the hammer on late-race shenanigans. Well, for those who want NASCAR to take a stand on this matter, sorry. They don’t plan on it.
“We didn’t see anything that crossed the line,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition said in an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday. “Our DNA for 74-plus years has been aggressive driving.”
Sawyer not only says that NASCAR didn’t see anything wrong with the finish of Sunday’s race at COTA, but he also took the opportunity to tout the Next Gen car and its durability for allowing drivers to let it all hang out in the closing laps of races.
“I think what we see today, and a little bit of a byproduct, which is still good is the durability of our Next Gen car. And our drivers know that so they can even be more aggressive,” Sawyer explained. “So, yeah, I think there is a line. The teams and drivers understand, for the most part, where that line is. And if we see anything that just looks blatantly obvious, then we’re going to get involved, but that’s not something we want to get involved in. We want the drivers to be able to handle that.”
Denny Hamlin, who was penalized for intentionally crowding Ross Chastain into the outside wall at Phoenix Raceway, was interested in Sawyer’s take on the late-race “action” at COTA, as Hamlin responded to the SiriusXM clip by tweeting, “Oh really?”
Oh really? ?
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) March 28, 2023
Hamlin is slated to have his appeal for penalties assessed for intentionally making contact with Chastain at Phoenix heard this week. You have to wonder if this SiriusXM NASCAR Radio interview will be used as a part of Hamlin’s defense.