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Video Appears to Show Denny Hamlin Jumping Restart at Richmond

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

The NASCAR Cup Series race ended controversially on Sunday night when Denny Hamlin beat Martin Truex Jr. on a late restart. Truex Jr. immediately accused Hamlin of jumping the restart in an interview with Fox Sports after the race. Well, the video below appears to show that Hamlin jumped the restart, so, why would NASCAR not penalize Hamlin?

  • The current rules of a restart are as follows. The leader of the race is the control car, and they can accelerate at any point within the “Restart zone”, marked by white lines on the track, and logos on both the apron and retaining walls. If the lead car goes too early, then they will be penalized. If they do not accelerate in the restart box, the flagman restarts the race by waving the green flag.
  • The video appears to show Denny Hamlin accelerating before he enters the restart box. However, there is, as of this writing, no available corresponding data showing Hamlin’s speed and throttle usage. That means there is no absolute certainty that he jumped the restart.
  • Fans were outraged to see Hamlin potentially jump the final restart given that he won the race. Many feel that the call ultimately screwed Martin Truex Jr., the best car all night, out of a win.

Analyzing the Restart

As you can see in the video above, Hamlin’s #11 car appears to accelerate further ahead of Truex Jr. just before entering the restart zone. Truex Jr. can be heard immediately claiming that Hamlin jumped the restart.

Another angle of the restart was shown on the Fox broadcast. It’s tougher to tell from this angle, but, Hamlin, again, clearly accelerates ahead of Truex Jr. Hamlin can also be seen a full two car lengths ahead of Joey Logano, who lined up on the inside of row two, once the field crosses the start/finish line. If Hamlin indeed did accelerate early, then, by the letter of the law, that’s an illegal restart.

However, no telemetry data was shown to definitively prove Hamlin jumped the restart. As a result, we cannot say with absolute certainty that he indeed did accelerate, even if it appears he did so.

It’s worth noting that NASCAR has penalized this type of violation late in the race before. At Dover in 2013, Jimmie Johnson, who was 2nd at the time, accelerated well before race leader Juan Pablo Montoya. NASCAR black-flagged Johnson, and Johnson was forced to serve a pass-through penalty very late in the race. While not an apples-to-apples comparison, it shows that NASCAR has penalized this type of violation before.

Post-Race Comments

Both Elton Sawyer and Denny Hamlin commented post-race on the final restart. Sawyer said that NASCAR determined the restart was reviewed, and they thought that it was okay.

We reviewed [the restart]. We looked at it. Obviously, the [No.] 11 was the control vehicle. It was awful close, but, we deemed it to be a good restart.

Elton Sawyer

We don’t know what data that NASCAR had to make that decision. They may have the available telemetry data to show that Hamlin did not accelerate early.

It’s also possible that NASCAR felt that Hamlin was close enough to the restart zone to deem it a good restart. When Hamlin did accelerate, it was maybe 30-40 feet before the restart line, which appears very close on screen, but, is still clearly before the line. The rule states that the control car must restart within the restart box, so, what’s the point of the rule if it’s not going to be enforced?

Denny Hamlin also gave his perspective on the final restart. He claims that he was trying to keep the guys behind him from taking advantage of his position on that restart.

I went right at [the restart zone] for sure. I did that because I saw those guys rolling to me. The [No.] 22 was laying back. The [No. 19] was rolling a couple MPH quicker than I was, so, I wasn’t going to let them have an advantage that my team earned on pit road.

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin believes that he saw drivers around him playing games on the restart, so, he responded by jumping quicker than expected. If you rewatch the restart video, you can clearly see that Joey Logano in the No. 22 lays back and then rolls up to the rear bumper of Hamlin. It’s tougher to tell if Truex Jr. does the same thing, but, it appears that his and Hamlin’s speed remains equal up until acceleration.

Restart etiquette was under fire late in 2023 with NASCAR penalizing Chase Elliott and A.J. Allmendinger at Kansas for laying back on a restart. Laying back on a restart is equally as illegal as accelerating early.

Maybe NASCAR thought that, if Hamlin was penalized, then other drivers should be penalized as well for their conduct on the restart. Overall, given the games that were played, the restart may have been equal as a result. Hamlin rightfully notes that he and Truex Jr. were side-by-side throughout turn one.

By the letter of the law, it seem the restart rule might have been violated. However, NASCAR, for whatever reason, decided to swallow the whistle. Were they right to do so?

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Joshua Lipowski

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