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An Objective Look at Cindric/Dillon vs Other Incidents

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Austin Dillon made an intense accusation after crashing out of the Cup Series race at Gateway last weekend, saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked him. This comes on the heels of two other incidents causing the suspensions of drivers Chase Elliott and Bubba Wallace. How does this Cindric/Dillion incident compare when taking an objective look at all three?

Bubba Wallace vs Kyle Larson (Las Vegas Fall 2022)

Now when taking a look at this incident, two things are clear. First, Kyle Larson crowded Bubba Wallace off of turn four, and it is understandable for Wallace to be upset following this. Secondly, Wallace swerved three lanes across the race track, and right reared Larson into the wall collecting innocent playoff driver Christopher Bell.

On top of that, Wallace made a bee-line for Larson’s car after the incident. This showed obvious displeasure with Larson from Wallace, making it more clear that this incident was payback. Wallace did deny intentionally wrecking Larson in the post crash interview.

Also, remember the context too. The Next-Gen car was under significant scrutiny because of safety concerns, and a crash like this that also took out an innocent playoff contender is not a good look.

So these are the factors at play. There was an obvious inciting incident, a deliberate turn of Wallace’s car to make contact with Larson, a show of displeasure from Wallace to Larson after the incident, and context of these types of incidents being especially dangerous. SMT data was not released to the public, but all of these factors in play mean there seems to be a clear intent of a dangerous act, necessitating a suspension.

Chase Elliott vs Denny Hamlin (Charlotte Spring 2023)

Now, the Wallace/Larson incident highlighted four factors that played a role in NASCAR suspending Wallace as follows: Inciting incident, deliberate turn of the car to make contact, a show of displeasure after the incident, and the incident being especially dangerous. Are those in play here with Elliott vs Hamlin?

First off, there is an inciting incident with Hamlin squeezing Elliott into the wall off of turn four. Secondly, Elliott did turn the car into Hamlin’s quarter panel, albeit not quite as egregiously as Wallace. Third, the wreck happened at 170+ miles per hour in the dog leg, arguably the most dangerous part of the race track to hit.

As for a showing of displeasure? Elliott does not explicitly say anything publicly, but he does make an interesting admission over the radio. Elliott mentions that Hamlin ran into him, and Elliott expresses his displeasure that way. Meaning that all four of these factors from the Wallace/Larson incident were met.

However, there is also another factor at play. Hamlin released the SMT data for the incident showing that Elliott made a deliberate turn of the wheel. This data made it even more difficult for Elliott to plead his case.

So that is all four of the Wallace/Larson factors met, plus the extra factor of the SMT data. Therefore, the appropriate course of action for what NASCAR should do with Elliott is to give him the same penalty that was given Wallace, a one race suspension. Therefore, Elliott was suspended.

Austin Cindric vs Austin Dillon (Gateway 2023)

So the factors of what necessitates an intentional wreck were roughly established with these two. Does the Cindric and Dillon incident have those factors?

Is there an obvious inciting incident? Dillon claims there was some contact between the two with Cindric showing his displeasure, but there has not been footage released of it that I could find. Therefore, it is impossible to say this definitively.

Was there a deliberate move of Cindric’s car to make contact? Cindric does seem to make a slight move downwards, but Dillon also seems to move his car up on the track towards Cindric as well. It is hard to call that a deliberate move especially considering they were heading into turn one and at the start of a braking zone.

Was there a showing of displeasure from Cindric towards Dillon, and was the move particularly dangerous? That does not seem to be a showing of displeasure anywhere from Cindric to Dillon (aside from Dillon’s post-race call out), and, while every crash in NASCAR is inherently dangerous, it’s not swerving across three lanes to turn someone at 180 mph.

As for the SMT data? That was not released until after the incident, but it does not clearly show Cindric turning left to explicitly make contact with Dillon. It’s right at the beginning of the turn, and it is not too dissimilar from the normal line of the corner.

Overall, it is impossible to judge intent with 100% certainty. However, the Cindric/Dillon incident simply does not follow the precedent for an intentional crash. No factors from the previous two crashes are clearly present in this one.

Therefore, it is difficult for NASCAR to make the same judgement call as they did from the first two incidents. The precedent just is not there, and it can easily be interpreted as a racing incident.

Should Cindric have been suspended? Precedent would say it is hard to make that argument.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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